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