ALL eyes will be on Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt this year as a reprieve of consultant-led maternity services in Banbury rests in his hands.
It comes after a legal bid for a judicial review over the decision last year by Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (OCCG) to downgrade services at the Horton General Hospital, was rejected.
Campaigners will now pressure Mr Hunt for a review of the decision via his Independent Reconfiguration Panel.
If approved, it will be the second-time plans to cut services at the Horton have been reviewed by the panel.
In 2008 when the hospital was facing the removal of acute services, it found in favour of campaigners.
Following High Court Judge Mr Justice Mostyn’s decision to dismiss the appeal, Cherwell District Council leader Barry Wood expressed “bitter disappointment”.
The council claimed the consultation run by OCCG was “flawed” and the process “confusing”.
The legal challenge had been brought to London’s High Court by Cherwell District Council, with co-complainant South Northamptonshire Council, Stratford-on-Avon District Council and Banbury Town Council, and supported by campaign group Keep the Horton General.
Cllr Wood said: “The council is very aware of the significant concern of local people about the withdrawal of acute services at our local hospital and felt that a legal challenge was an appropriate action to take to reflect the extent of that concern.
“Despite this, the council will not ‘rest on its laurels’ and will now focus attention on the referral of the withdrawal of the obstetrics service to the Secretary of State for Health and his hopeful instruction to his specialist panel to review that decision.”
Cherwell appealed six points relating to OCCG’s two-phase consultation process, but all were dismissed by Mr Justice Mostyn.
North Oxfordshire MP Victoria Prentis has fired-off a letter to the Secretary of State urging him to use his power to force the consultation to be “rerun”.
She added: “The judgment has simply served to reinforce my profound discomfort about the way in which the CCG ran the consultation.”
Banbury Town Council leader Kieron Mallon said he was “frustrated” and “let down” by the verdict”.
Sue Edgar, of Banbury and Bicester Labour party, said: “It’s hard to be hopeful, as the appeal will be to a Minister of the government who created these policies.
“But he could refer it to his panel of experts and maybe then we’ll have a chance.”