Halt the Consultation on NHS Cuts


Oxfordshire Keep Our NHS Public, Press Release, 7 February

Oxfordshire Keep Our NHS Public demands that the current phase 1 Consultation on the Oxfordshire Transformation Plan, part of the first two years of the Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and West Berkshire Sustainablity and Transformation Plan, is halted.

The Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group’s (CCG) decision to effectively permanently downgrade the Horton maternity unit has been referred to the secretary of state by the Oxfordshire Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HOSC).

The consultation has become meaningless as the public does not know what it is being consulted on. The secretary of state may still decide that the Horton maternity unit should retain full obstetric cover. This would have a fundamental affect on the whole Transformation Plan including the Oxford hospitals.

There is considerable opposition to a two-phase consultation because it artificially separates interdependent parts of health and social care.

A new single-phase open consultation should start after a new plan emerges when the Horton situation has been resolved.

Oxfordshire Keep Our NHS Public is seeking legal advice to clarify the effect that the HOSC decision may have on the Transformation Plan – a plan developed by the CCG, Oxford University Hospitals Trust, Oxford Health Trust, and clinical and scientific opinion to conform with NHS England’s requirement that a further £22 billion is cut from the already overstretched NHS budget by the imposition of the STPs.

Contacts: Dr Ken Williamson, chair of Oxfordshire Keep Our NHS Public, Mobile: 07831 570936

Mark Ladbrooke, secretary 07501 071 526

Bill MacKeith, press officer 01865 558145

keepournhspublicoxfordshire.org.uk;   https://www.facebook.com/konpoxon;   @keepNHS_oxon


Veronica Treacher of KONP, Speech to Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee, 2 Feb 2017

COUNCILLORS, without wanting to sound unduly dramatic in these portentous times – there is a crisis of democracy occurring in the process of implementation of the Sustainability and Transformation Plans. Whilst most health professionals and campaigners agree these mass infrastructure ‘reconfigurations’ are a convenient way to devolve £22 billion of cuts to already financially besieged localities, there is another damaging crisis enveloping the NHS administration.

Prior to the Five Year Forward View and STPs, the capacity of the public to influence management of health services was questionable: patient groups were always largely window dressing and toothless.

Now, despite expensive bureaucratic machinery surrounding ‘patient engagement’ exercises, the extent to which people can hold decision makers to account remains severely limited.

The NHS is framed by prescriptive, centrally driven sets of metrics – waiting times, audit regimes, control totals – command structures also imposed from the centre. These clearly restrict meaningful stakeholder participation.

Perhaps worst of all is the language barrier – slippery management-speak platitudes and ‘revolutionary new buzzwords’ – that dupe us into engaging like consumers rather than citizen-patients.

Plans are presented as a technical exercise with services having only instrumental value – a means to an end.

With the latest changes there has been a transformation from ‘questionable public accountability to no discernible public accountability at all’.

Under instructions from NHS England, the Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and West Berkshire STP largely remains secret. It has been termed – by respected organ of management, the Health Service Journal – ‘extra-legislative reform’. But among the plethora of management organisations involved, we cannot know who’s in charge, of what, or where responsibility resides.

Because the changes have already been decided, the STP itself is merely an explanation, so that consultation or engagement is essentially along the lines of ‘Let’s tell the people what the changes are.’


And the accelerating speed of implementation has meant the plans effectively have been ‘protected from too much scrutiny’ by the ignorant masses – us.


Hospitals and surgeries are more than just buildings. They are symbolic – wrapped up in identity and community – places of suffering, hopes, fears, anxieties, emotions, values, security – ‘existing at the junction of life and death.’ Places that have meanings way beyond the narrow instrumentalism and rationality of cost controls.

In other words, they are the embodiment of the NHS.

Real democracy must provide appropriate spaces for the expression of these voices and these meanings.

Reconfigurations must be properly and openly stress-tested to ensure they are credible and can be delivered by and for the very people who are most affected.

A STORM IS SIMMERING IN OXFORDSHIRE – where even a Tory MP is challenging the cuts and downgrades at the Banbury Horton.


  • When public consultation is phased to ensure there will be no bad news – theoretically – until after the Council Elections
  • When consultation is partial and post hoc
  • When plans do not connect with the entire BOB STP – a bedpan dropped in Newbury can be heard rattling in Chipping Norton!
  • When plans fail to include detailed financial plans/appendices and the cost savings for every change of service
  • And when plans omit risk assessments for each change proposed.


  • To publish your findings and concerns
  • To refuse to rubber-stamp
  • To invoke your powers to hold managers to account
  • To block controversial changes pending a decision by the Secretary of State and
  • To demand a substantial increase in funding from government to save our local health services


The local democratic accountability vested in this Scrutiny Committee may be preserved.


[In the compilation of this address, Veronica Treacher and Oxfordshire KONP wish to acknowledge and reference a timely article by Dr Carl Walker of the University of Brighton, critiquing STPs and analysing the nature of the democratic crisis confronting local authorities across the country:




February 2017

HOSC Starts to Earn its Name, 2 Feb 2017

Oxfordshire County Council’s Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee is really getting into gear. In a big blow to NHS managers’ plans for cuts in services, councillors voted to refer two different matters to the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt.

In the morning, HOSC members voted unanimously to refer to the secretary of state the down-grading of the previously consultant-led maternity services at Banbury’s Horton General Hospital to a midwife led unit. The reference was made on the grounds of ‘failure to take adequate measures to recruit’. Mr Hunt has said on BBC South Today that he would pass the case to the Independent Review Panel (IRP) if HOSC referred the matter to him. The IRP ruled in 2008 that the journey from Banbury to Oxford was too far for a woman in labour, and extremely unwell adults and children to undertake.

 However, councillors and members of the public were shocked when it emerged that, contrary to the decision of the HOSC at its November meeting, the chair had not written to the Government calling for additional funding to be made available to the National Health Service in Oxfordshire. No reason was given for this by the chair, Councillor Yvonne Constance.

In another blow for Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group, in its afternoon session the Committee voted to refer the closure of Deer Park surgery in Witney, due at the end of March, to the Secretary of State. In vain did Mr David Smith, chief executive of the OCCG, argue that ‘we are where we are’, that the closure was not a substantial change to services, and that Virgin Health had said it would close the surgery at the end of March, as the private company had rejected the financial terms offered by the CCG to continue running the surgery. Councillors voted unanimously, first that the closure was indeed a substantial change, and secondly to refer the closure to Mr Hunt.

 Chair of Oxfordshire Keep Our NHS Public, Dr Ken Williamson, said: ‘Today the Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee has lived up to its name and held NHS managers to account. The County Council must now step up the pressure on the government to provide the necessary funding to prevent the cuts and closures proposed in the Oxfordshire Transformation Plan and the wider Sustainability and Transformation Plan.

Now it is important that we have the biggest possible turn out for the lobby of the 7th March meeting of the Scrutiny Committee, which will decide its position on local NHS managers’ plans, or should I say cuts.’ (starts 8.30 at County Hall.)

 As well as speakers from Banbury, Witney and Chipping Norton, Veronica Treacher of Oxfordshire Keep Our NHS Public made an eloquent defence of a publicly provided national health service, called for additional funding, and for managers to be accountable to the public. Her speech will be available on the Oxon KONP website.

 Contacts: Dr Ken Williamson, chair of Oxfordshire Keep Our NHS Public, Mobile: 07831 570936

Mark Ladbrooke, secretary 07501 071 526

Bill MacKeith, press officer 01865 558145

keepournhspublicoxfordshire.;   https://www.facebook.com/;  @keepNHS_oxon