Health chiefs should not be afraid to ‘go back to the drawing board’ after an independent panel called for a review on alternatives to permanently downgrading the Horton General Hospital’s maternity unit.
The chairman of Oxfordshire’s health scrutiny committee, Councillor Arash Fatemian, was responding to a report into the decision.
The report concluded that the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissiong Group ‘fell short’ in its consideration of options prior to the decision in August last year, adding that public consultation over the changes was ‘confusing’ and ‘added to public suspicion’.
Cllr Fatemian, who lives in Banbury and represents Deddington, said the Independent Reconfiguration Panel’s (IRP) report “vindicates the anger and frustration which has been felt across our community for almost two years”.
He added: “It has been a difficult and uncertain time and, while the IRP has not put forward an immediate solution, a restart of the consultation process will afford us the opportunity to have our voices genuinely heard.
“We should not be daunted by going back to the drawing board nor should this be considered by the community as a step backward.
“It is an opportunity for us to revive our united front and fight our corner.”
Banbury MP Victoria Prentis, who has campaigned against the maternity service changes, also welcomed the report, saying it was time to start again with “a blank sheet” and create a new plan.
“It has been a profoundly difficult situation for all of us who use the Horton,” the Conservative said.
“The IRP’s conclusion that further work needs to be undertaken comes as a huge relief and is recognition of what many of us have been saying repeatedly since the flawed consultation process began.”
She added: “It is time for us to draw a line under the past two years.
“We need to start again with a blank sheet, and work together to focus on a real vision for the future of healthcare in Oxfordshire.”
The IRP also criticised the two-phase consultation saying changes in phase one would inevitably affect changes in phase two, which are yet to be decided on.
OCCG chief executive Louise Patten said in response: “As the new CEO I will personally ensure that the CCG and wider health system approach the IRP recommendations in a way that ensures all stakeholders feel involved and informed.
“I have written to the chair of the Oxfordshire HOSC and offered my commitment to move forward in a transparent and inclusive manner.”