The close proximity of southern parts of Stratford-on-Avon to North Oxfordshire means that a considerable number of my constituents use the Horton General Hospital in Banbury.
On 3 October 2016, Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (OUHFT) put in place contingency plans that turned the consultant-led maternity department at the Horton into a midwife-led unit (MLU). This was because, during the summer of 2016, the Trust had failed to recruit a sufficient number of obstetricians to keep the consultant-led unit operable. I immediately wrote to the Chief Executive of the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group
to highlight constituents’ concerns.
There is, of course, nothing unsafe about MLUs as long as mothers can be easily transferred to consultant-led units in case of complications. The grave concern about the Horton is that, now, the nearest consultant-led maternity unit is all the way at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford. Even by blue light ambulance, the average time taken to get from the Horton to the JR is between 30 and 45 minutes, a time in excess of NICE guidelines for emergency caesareans.
Along with Victoria Prentis (MP for Banbury), and other MPs whose constituents use the Horton, we have sought to put pressure on the Trust to account for the clear risks and ramifications associated with downgrading the maternity unit. You can read our letter here
. These risks of course include the potentially dangerous transfer time between the Horton and the JR, and the pressures that will be put on other hospitals (such as Warwick and the JR) should mothers in Stratford-on-Avon decide they would like to deliver at a consultant-led unit from the outset.
In January this year, the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group announced the beginning of its consultation process for Oxfordshire’s Sustainability and Transformation Plan. Along with other affected MPs, I had considerable concerns about the content of the consultation and the manner in which it is being conducted. You can read my statement here. The consultation has now closed and you can read my joint response with Jeremy Wright MP here.
In February, it was announced that the decision on whether or not to permanently suspend obstetric services at the Horton would be referred the Secretary of State, Jeremy Hunt. I, along with Victoria Prentis MP (Banbury), Robert Courts MP (Witney) and Andrea Leadsom MP (South Northamptonshire), support this referral and we have all written to the Secretary of State to express our desire to see consultant-led services continue at the Horton. You can read our letter here