On Thursday 10th August, the board of the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (OCCG) met to decide on whether or not to approve proposals set out earlier this year in the first phase of the OCCG's Transformation Programme.
Among the decisions made by the board was the approval to make permanent the temporary downgrading of the maternity unit at the Horton General Hospital from an obstetric-led unit to a midwife-led unit (MLU).
As part of their joint response to the consultation, MPs Nadhim Zahawi and Jeremy Wright registered their opposition to a permanent downgrading. In particular they raised concerns about the OCCG's estimated travel times from the Banbury vicinity to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford; they affirmed that the times did not reflect reality and that any downgrading of the maternity unit at the Horton would leave labouring mothers in South Warwickshire dangerously isolated from an obstetric-led unit.
The MPs were also condemnatory of the conduct and process of the consultation exercise as a whole, describing it as "entirely flawed".
Commenting, Mr Wright said:
"In our response to the consultation, Nadhim and I criticised the OCCG for splitting the exercise into two parts and for failing to sufficiently engage with relevant stakeholders in Warwickshire. We are not therefore surprised that such a flawed consultation led to an equally flawed outcome from the OCCG board meeting on Thursday, and we are disappointed that the OCCG has given the go-ahead to measures that are quite clearly not in the interests of our constituents in South Warwickshire".
Mr Zahawi said:
"It is extremely disappointing that the OCCG has decided to make the downgrading of the maternity unit at the Horton permanent. It does not appear that the concerns raised by Jeremy and me and numerous other respondents regarding travel times to the John Radcliffe in Oxford have been considered adequately. We therefore face a likely permanent downgrading of maternity services at the Horton based on imprecise evidence that could potentially endanger labouring mothers.
"Jeremy and I will continue to work with fellow MPs whose constituents use the Horton to fight to retain acute services there".