Victoria Prentis addresses the Oxfordshire Joint Health and Overview Scrutiny Committee

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Ahead of the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group’s board meeting later this week, when decisions will be taken on proposed changes to healthcare in Oxfordshire, Victoria Prentis MP addressed the Oxfordshire Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HOSC). Victoria was just one of a number of speakers, including fellow Oxfordshire MP Robert Courts, former Banbury MP and current High Steward, the Rt Hon Sir Tony Baldry, and the Bishop of Dorchester, the Rt Revd Colin Fletcher. Those who participated were united in their opposition to plans laid out in the recent first phase of consultation on the Oxfordshire Transformation Programme and urged JHOSC to make a referral to the Secretary of State. 


A video as well as the full text of Victoria’s speech can be seen below:


I am here on behalf of 90,000 of my constituents and I can truly say that one this subject, we speak as one. I’m also here for those constituents of the future (we are building houses at five times the rate of the national average) and those in the large rural hinterland in Northamptonshire, Warwickshire and Buckinghamshire. Robert will deal with West Oxfordshire.


We are anxious about the future of our hospital, frightened about the current safety of mothers and babies and angry about process.  I will deal with each in turn.



This is not just about maternity. In Banbury we have valued and trusted our hospital for almost 150 years.  We have been fighting to save it for as long as I can remember.  It is important – it provides around a third of Oxfordshire’s A and E for example.


BUT We know that there IS a domino effect on services; when we lose one others follow.   One example: This time last year there were two anaesthetic rotas at the Horton. One has gone since obstetrics shut. Health Education England – who oversee training accreditation – have last month said that they will remove training for certain grades.  They accept that this will have an effect on recruitment – yet there has been a complete refusal to engage or accept this argument.




Patient safety is the top priority. We have been told repeatedly that, without sufficient consultants, the obstetrics unit cannot remain open, but this looks at safety from the wrong angle.  And our efforts to help with recruitment have been ignored.   


Two different groups concern me:

  1. The mothers who elect to give birth in the MLU as low risk and become high risk during labour. We know that a high level of transfers are taking place during or immediately after labour.  We are worried by real medical difficulties which arise as a result.  You will hear of some sad cases later.
  1. The vast majority of mothers now have to go to the John Radcliffe – whether because they are first-timers, higher risk or simply want the option of some pain relief.  I am concerned that they have to spend hours in a car in the third stage of labour

Both these groups are worried about travel times to Oxford.  The first group may be in an ambulance – but there has been no discussion of ambulance provision should the suspension become permanent. The second group must take its chances in Oxford traffic.

There has been no real evaluation of journey times. The consultation document relied solely on Google Maps  My own travel survey showed a different picture: there were almost 400 respondents over 3 months. They told me it takes on average 1 hour and 20 minutes to travel from the Banbury area (including villages in the very north of the county) to get to an Oxford hospital. Many spent, on average, a further 20 minutes to park. This means that a patient travelling from the Banbury area can expect to enter reception at an Oxford hospital a full hour and forty minutes after departure.    



Last summer, we faced the sudden suspension of obstetric service with no consultation. This was then followed by a chaotic split consultation by the Clinical Commissioning Group, spanning not one but two purdah periods, blighted by inadequate information and changing timelines. Most worryingly the consultation proposed no alternatives. True consultation involves choice.  Despite almost universal opposition to their proposals, the CCG continues to push forward, even when two of the main architects will be leaving their roles before it is complete. The Board’s Decision Making Business Case published on Thursday last week could have been written before the consultation began.


Removing patient choice and relying on the John Radcliffe, which is already under pressure, is not the answer. The IRP concluded in 2008 that the Horton should play an integral role in the provision of services. Since then, nothing has changed except the traffic, which has got worse. The Trust have not supported the sustainability of services in the north of the county. Recruitment issues are a problem across the Trust’s multiple sites yet the Horton always bears the brunt of the changes. We continue to be seen as the outpost in the north: underfunded, understaffed, and a place where decisions can be sprung upon us rather than taken with us.