Fresh hearing granted in Horton case
A judge has ruled in favour of South Northamptonshire Council, Cherwell District Council, Stratford-on-Avon District Council and Banbury Town Council as they fight against proposed downgrades to services at the Horton General Hospital in Banbury.
The councils are seeking a judicial review into the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group’s (OCCG) consultation on changes to services including maternity, critical care and hospital bed use.
The councils argue that the consultation was inadequate, fundamentally flawed and confusing for people who wanted to have their say on the future of their local hospital.
On Tuesday, 5 September at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, Mr Justice Fraser ruled that the claimants should be granted a three-day hearing at which they can challenge the way in which the consultation was run and make the case for a full judicial review. It is expected that the hearing will take place later in 2017.
Cllr Ian McCord, leader of South Northamptonshire Council, Cllr Barry Wood, leader of Cherwell District Councill, Cllr Chris Saint, leader of Stratford-on-Avon District Council and Cllr Kieron Mallon, leader of Banbury Town Council are united in the view that the two-phase consultation process run by the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group was highly confusing for any ordinary member of the public who wanted to respond.
The councils have sought specialist advice from the legal and medical professions to make sure the case was made as strongly as possible, and to help put forward positive and imaginative proposals for the way the Horton General Hospital can best serve the area in the years to come.
The leaders have said that: “Rather than encouraging those who rely on services such as a consultant-led maternity unit to have their say, the two-stage consultation made the proposed changes harder to understand. That means that the findings of the consultation were skewed, and that they are not a proper basis for downgrading essential services.
“The councils have been disappointed by the limited understanding of the effect of the proposals on the people of north Oxfordshire and surrounding areas and particularly the lack of consultation with over 35,000 potential patients referred by their doctor in south Warwickshire to the Horton General Hospital.
“Yesterday’s decision is good news but it is by no means the end of the battle. We are very pleased that we shall have the opportunity to have our concerns and those of local residents heard by a judge at a proper hearing, and are resolved to do right for the areas we serve and continue our fight for a full judicial review."
This ruling runs in parallel with three referrals to the Secretary of State of the process and commissioner decisions so that every avenue of challenge to these hugely unpopular health changes is pursued.
The changes to maternity services mean that the Horton’s maternity unit will continue to be led by midwives only, with no consultants on hand and no epidural pain relief available meaning that it will be the birthplace of choice for only six per cent of local mothers to be.
Following the consultation, the OCCG has also resolved to take all of the most serious critical care patients and all stroke cases directly to Oxford, to permanently close 110 beds between the Horton and Oxford Hospitals and to increase planned care at the Horton.