Since the vote to refer Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust’s (OUHFT) decision to suspend obstetrics at the Horton General Hospital to the Secretary of State for Health, Victoria Prentis MP has been pushing to have proposals for the Horton maternity unit removed from phase one of the ongoing consultation.

The first phase of the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group’s (OCCG) consultation began on 16 January 2017, and includes discussions surrounding critical care, planned care and maternity services at the Horton, alongside proposals for acute stroke services and changes to hospital beds across Oxfordshire.

Victoria firmly believes that consulting in two phases will prevent members of the public from seeing the full picture surrounding services at the Horton, particularly in relation to maternity and the future of the Midwife Led Unit in Banbury.

Having attended the first consultation event in Banbury, Victoria joined Witney MP, Robert Courts, at the Chipping Norton consultation meeting on 2 February. During the event, Chipping Norton’s residents emphasised their reliance on services at the Horton, with several commenting that Oxford was too far away from many of West Oxfordshire’s remote rural communities. Victoria, Robert and members of the public also raised their concerns about the split consultation process, reminding the panel that health services across the north of Oxfordshire are integrally linked.

On Friday 3 February, Victoria attended a Community and Partnership Network (CPN) meeting, joined by members of the OCCG and OUHFT. During the meeting she made reference to the referral of the decision to downgrade the Horton’s maternity unit, and argued that it should be removed from phase one of the consultation, pending a decision by the Secretary of State for Health.

At the CPN meeting, Victoria said “It is almost impossible for the people of North Oxfordshire and beyond to express their views on what is being proposed in Phase One when we have absolutely no idea how decisions in Phase One will affect Phase Two of the consultation. Now that OUHFT’s decision to downgrade the maternity unit at the Horton has been referred to the Secretary of State, it would make much more sense to hold off on making any further decisions about its future.”