CAMPAIGNERS are one step closer to mounting a legal challenge over the decision to downgrade maternity services at Banbury’s Horton Hospital.
Last week London’s Royal Courts of Justice agreed to allow a three-day hearing to make the case for a full judicial review.
The legal challenge was mounted jointly by Cherwell district, South Northamptonshire, Stratford-on-Avon district and Banbury town councils, along with campaign group Keep the Horton General as an interested party.
The councils are seeking a judicial review over Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group’s (OCCG) consultation on changes to services including maternity, critical care and hospital bed use.
The councils argue the consultation, which took place earlier this year, was “inadequate”, “fundamentally flawed” and “confusing” for people who wanted to have their say on the future of their local hospital.
Last month OCCG agreed to permanently downgrade maternity services at the Horton to a midwife-run unit, close 110 beds across the county’s hospitals and create a central stroke centre in Oxford.
A date has not been set for the hearing, but it is expected to take place before the end of the year.
To help build up their case, the councils have taken “specialist advice” from the legal and medical professions, and put forward sustainable proposals for the future of Horton Hospital.
In a joint statement council leaders Cllr Barry Wood of Cherwell, Cllr Ian McCord of South Northamptonshire, Cllr Chris Saint of Stratford-on-Avon, and Cllr Kieron Mallon of Banbury Town Council said they were “united” in the view the two-phase consultation run by OCCG was “highly confusing”.
The statement said: “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.
“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.”
The legal move runs in parallel with three separate referrals to the Secretary of State over the process and decision made by the OCCG.