Category Archives: Victoria in North Oxfordshire

MP HOLDS SURGERY IN BARCLAYS BANK

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On Friday 15 September, North Oxfordshire MP decided to try out a new location for her constituency surgeries – Barclays Bank in Banbury.

While she usually organises ‘Supermarket Surgeries’ in Sainsbury’s cafés, Victoria was kindly invited to hold one of her regular constituent drop-ins in Barclay’s Banbury Branch. With friendly staff and a private room, it was a success with a number of local people popping in to have a chat to Victoria about issues ranging from help with visas to mental health support.

Surgeries are an important part of an MP’s job, giving constituents valuable face to face time with their elected representative. Talking to an MP is quite often people’s last resort and they come with a wide range of issues and concerns.

After the surgery, Victoria commented: “The setting in Barclays Banbury was ideal for meeting my constituents, particularly those with quite complex cases. The staff were very helpful, providing a private room to conduct each appointment in. I am keen to ensure that my surgeries are accessible, so holding them in places such as banks on the high street and supermarket cafes works well. While my diary is very busy, I thoroughly enjoy holding surgeries and meeting constituents, alongside my more rural ‘pub tours’.”

For more information on Victoria’s upcoming surgeries, please visit www.victoriaprentis.com/contact/surgery-appointments/.

Victoria Launches ‘Virtual Water Fountain’ Scheme in Banbury and Bicester

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Banbury and Bicester have this week joined the campaign to protect the marine environment and cut litter levels by reducing the reliance on disposable plastic water bottles, following the launch of the Refill scheme in the area.

Some 20 local businesses have already signed up to the initiative, which seeks to connect thirsty people with cafes, shops and offices willing to offer free tap water refills. Participating businesses register with an app and also place a sticker in their window alerting passers-by that they are a Refill site, regardless of whether they are customers or not.

The local scheme, which is sponsored by Bicester-based business BRITA UK and has the backing of Victoria Prentis MP, aims to make refilling a reusable water bottle on the go and staying hydrated as easy, convenient and cheap as possible. Research conducted by BRITA UK and Keep Britain Tidy  earlier this year revealed that 59% of us would be more likely to use a reusable water bottle if refills were more freely available in places such as shops, airports and parks.

Research has shown a reduction in the number of water fountains around the country, but English law currently only requires licensed premises to offer free refills, not all establishments that are open to the public. And BRITA’s research found that embarrassment is holding people back; with 71% of people uncomfortable asking for free tap water without buying something else and 37% awkward even if they are making a purchase. The Refill app aims to remove any obstacles to drinking on the go in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way.

Britons use 7.7bn single-use plastic bottles every year  despite the fact that these are expensive to produce, use up valuable natural resources to make and transport, and create mountains of waste.  An estimated 800 plastic bottles a minute are either ending up in landfill or as litter, which will too often make its way into our waterways and out to sea, causing severe damage to marine life such as whales, dolphins and turtles.

Banbury and Bicester are the tenth and eleventh towns in England to sign up to Refill, which was first launched by anti-plastic pollution charity City to Sea in Bristol in September 2015 and is now live in cities including Bath and Norwich. The Banbury and Bicester refill scheme was officially launched by Victoria Prentis at a bottle filling ceremony at FLTR Coffee cafe today.

Sarah Taylor, Managing Director of BRITA UK, said: ‘BRITA UK is delighted to be supporting the launch of Refill in Bicester and Banbury. We all know how important it is to stay hydrated on the go, but it can be really difficult to find somewhere to fill up for free or get a glass of water. Unfortunately that often means people purchase plastic bottles that will then be thrown away, causing long-term damage to the marine environment and increasing the amount of litter in our public spaces. The Refill scheme is a practical solution to this problem and I would encourage all businesses in Bicester and Banbury to sign up.

Victoria Prentis, MP for Banbury, said: ‘I am thrilled to launch the Refill scheme in Banbury and Bicester. Disposable bottles can be so damaging to the environment, but they are often hard to avoid, especially when out and about. The simplest solutions are usually the most effective; Refill enables people to do their bit while going about their everyday lives. We can see a similar arrangement in action with London’s Borough Market introducing free water fountains as part of a pledge to phase out single-use plastic bottles over the next six months.  There is definitely scope for this to be a national model. I am really looking forward to seeing how the scheme develops locally and am very grateful to Brita for their generous support.

Natalie Fee, founder of City to Sea, said: ‘Thanks to our partnership with BRITA UK, shoppers and commuters in Banbury and Bicester will never have to buy expensive, environmentally catastrophic bottled water again! Our free Refill rewards app means you’ll be able to find free refills in your local area and earn points as you go – helping you to remember to take your reusable bottle out with you when you leave the house!

Victoria refilling her water bottle to mark the launch of the Banbury and Bicester Refill scheme.

Victoria refilling her water bottle to mark the launch of the Banbury and Bicester Refill scheme.

The Refill team with supporters from Brita and local business owners.

The Refill team with supporters from Brita and local business owners.

Victoria Prentis MP comments on Judicial Review progression

Following today’s decision to grant permission for a full High Court hearing of the Judicial Review brought forward by four local councils against changes to healthcare services, Victoria Prentis MP has made the following statement:

“I am absolutely delighted to hear that permission has been granted for a full hearing of the councils’ Judicial Review application. From the very beginning it was clear that the Clinical Commissioning Group’s Phase One consultation was fatally flawed. North Oxfordshire is united in its opposition to the content and process which has been used. Despite making our views known time and time again, we have been ignored. The application to the High Court for a judicial review was brought by four councils, supported by the Keep the Horton General Campaign Group. Today’s decision by Mr Justice Fraser recognises that our concerns are well founded.

Having sought assurances that no changes to maternity services will be made at the Horton until the judicial review and referrals to the Secretary of State have run their course, I will now write to the Clinical Commissioning Group once again to urge them to abandon their Phase One consultation in its entirety. We need to start again when we have a new Chief Executive and Clinical Lead. At the same time, I will do all I can to assist the councils with their preparations for the full hearing which will we hope take place before the end of the year.”

Victoria speaks to BBC Radio Oxford following CCG Board decision

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On Friday morning, Victoria Prentis MP spoke to David Prever during his breakfast show for BBC Radio Oxford to discuss Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group’s decision to approve Phase One of the Oxfordshire Transformation Plan.

 

Click on the following link to listen to the full interview: 

 

Many thanks to BBC Radio Oxford for providing the media file. 

 

 

VICTORIA PRENTIS MP “FURIOUS” WITH OXFORDSHIRE CLINICAL COMMISSIONING GROUP BOARD DECISION

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North Oxfordshire MP Victoria Prentis has said she is “furious” with today’s decision by the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group Board to approve proposals set out in their Phase One Transformation Programme.

The first phase of the consultation, which ran from January to April this year, put forward proposals for the future of health services in Oxfordshire. It was met with widespread opposition, particularly in the north of the county, with many people concerned about the future of the Horton General Hospital and patient safety.

During the meeting, the CCG Board Members voted to support the following proposals from the consultation:

  • Transfer of Level 3 Critical Care from the Horton to the John Radcliffe (JR) in Oxford.
  • A complete transfer of immediate care for suspected Strokes to the JR.
  • To make permanent the temporary downgrade of the Horton maternity unit from an obstetric to a midwife led unit (MLU).
  • The permanent closure of 110 acute beds, followed by a further 36 bed closures dependent on approval by the Clinical Senate.
  • An increase in Planned Care Services at the Horton, including plans for a new Diagnostic and Outpatient facility.

Before the Board made the decision, a number of stakeholders including Victoria Prentis, Witney MP Robert Courts, Joint Oxfordshire Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) Chair, Councillor Arash Fatemian, Professor George Smith, Chair of Healthwatch Oxfordshire, and Keith Strangwood of the Keep the Horton General campaign group, were given the opportunity to make brief statements. In her own contribution, Victoria made clear her frustrations and focused on areas of patient safety which have not been addressed properly throughout the consultation process.

After the meeting, Victoria said: “The Board’s decision to approve proposals in the Transformation Programme consultation comes as no surprise.

“I am furious. Public consultation has been meaningless. The Board heard five clear addresses from myself, my colleague Robert Courts, HOSC Chair, Councillor Arash Fatemian, Professor George Smith, Chair of Healthwatch Oxfordshire, and Keith Strangwood, Chair of the Keep the Horton General campaign group. We were united in our views, yet there was no further mention of many of the points we raised when the Board examined the proposals. For example, we have no idea whether the static ambulance will remain at the Horton. Blue light transfer times were looked at without addressing the fact that no transfer can take place until another midwife has come into the unit to enable the duty midwife to travel with the mother giving birth. While patient safety is top priority for all of us, there was no proper discussion about how people, particularly those in the north of the county who do not own a car, are supposed to access services at the John Radcliffe. 

“No discussion was had about the impact on the families of patients, and there was no consideration of future arrangements for the hardworking Horton staff, and those whose job is now in Oxford, who have had to adapt to changes made in the last year.

“My requests to pause the decision-making process until we have a clearer vision of health services and more evidence to understand the proposals have been ignored over and over again. Before today there were two referrals to the Secretary of State. There are now three, as the Oxfordshire Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) will now refer the decision to permanently downgrade the maternity unit. I support them in their calls for no action to be taken until the referral process has run its course. We will also have to see how the judicial review brought by five councils progresses.

“I urge my constituents not to give up hope. I remain absolutely committed in the fight to retain acute services at the Horton General Hospital.”

Please see below a video of Victoria’s address and her speaking notes.

 

The consequences of your decision today are significant.

Significant for the low-risk mothers who choose the Horton MLU who become high risk during labour and need transferring, but must wait for a midwife and wait for an ambulance before they are able to. Can you be sure that you have enough information concerning what will replace the static ambulance? There is nothing in the papers before you and we were given inconsistent information during the consultation. We know there have been cases where difficulties have arisen.

Significant for the many thousands of women – the 85 per cent who give birth in an obstetric unit – who will now be forced to spend up to one and a half hours in their car – if they are lucky enough to have one – in the latter stages of labour and then wait while their partner parks. Your impact assessment observes that there is poor connectivity and congestion for people in the north of the county trying to get to Oxford. Yet the CCG’s proposals rely on models applied to metropolitan and largely urban areas, overlooking the rural nature of much of the county. Can you be sure that all travel options have been explored and considered?

Significant for all other services at the Horton. The Horton General Hospital provides almost a third of the county’s A&E. The decision you make take today may inadvertently put the ability to do this at risk. Training accreditation for anaesthetists has been removed this month. Please ensure you are fully sighted on the knock-on effects before making your decision.

I accept that recruitment is a national problem but can you be sure that the Trust has not explored all options when it has neither taken up our offers of help with recruitment, including discounted housing and school fees, nor has it engaged with the District Council’s offer of golden handshakes.

Can you be sure that there has been robust critical analysis of the workforce modelling on which you can base a decision? Has there been sufficient exploration of the suggestion for a Banbury Health Campus worked up by the District Council?

Can you be sure that local clinicians have been properly consulted? I have heard from local GPs who tell me they are worried their voices are not being heard. They are tired of the process. It has not felt like a consultation to them. 

In 2008, the Independent Reconfiguration Panel was left with a sense that the Horton was viewed as a problem to be solved rather than a development opportunity, and encouraged the Trust to recognise the Horton’s positive future as an integral part of its future vision.

Can you be sure that this has happened? The Trust have told me that they are ready with their options for Phase 2, and have been for the past year. The CCG has told me that it is only just starting work on Phase 2 and consultation is unlikely until May 2018. A new Chief Executive and Clinical Lead also need to be appointed.  We have three referrals to the Secretary of State from various HOSCs, and a judicial review, which is very much still live, brought by five councils. 

In these circumstances, I ask you to make the decision on stroke care (Proposal 2) but to park decisions on Proposals 1 and 5 – bed closures and maternity – until the full picture is assessed and we have the answers we need.

VICTORIA PRENTIS MP TO ADDRESS CLINICAL COMMISSIONING GROUP BOARD MEETING

North Oxfordshire MP Victoria Prentis has been invited to address Board members of the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group at their meeting tomorrow during which they will decide on the proposals in their Transformation Programme Phase One Consultation. Victoria will have the opportunity to speak for up to five minutes to set out her own views on the plans. Given the time limit, Victoria has also written to the Board to set out a number of questions she has having read the post-consultation reports. A full copy of her letter is available here.

VICTORIA PRENTIS MP WELCOMES HOSC REFERRAL OF OXFORDSHIRE TRANSFORMATION PROGRAMME PHASE ONE CONSULTATION

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North Oxfordshire MP has welcomed the unanimous decision by the Oxfordshire Joint Health & Overview Scrutiny Committee’s to refer the Oxfordshire Transformation Programme Phase One consultation to the Secretary of State. The referral came at the end of an all-day meeting at County Hall, during which HOSC members heard from Victoria Prentis MP, Witney MP Robert Courts, Banbury High Steward and former MP the Rt Hon Sir Tony Baldry and the Rt Revd Colin Fletcher, Bishop of Dorchester. Statements were also made by numerous members of the Keep the Horton General campaign group, Cherwell District Council and representatives from Healthwatch Oxfordshire.

In her own remarks, Victoria made clear that the people of North Oxfordshire are “anxious about the future of our hospital, frightened about the current safety of mothers and babies and angry about process.” She went on to address each in turn.

Speaking after HOSC’s decision to refer, Victoria said: “It is said that adversity draws people together. Nowhere was that more apparent than at today’s meeting where every person who spoke did so to express their frustration, dismay and opposition to the Clinical Commissioning Group’s Phase One consultation. The CCG Board now finds itself meeting on Thursday to decide on its proposals, yet there are three ongoing referrals to the IRP relating to the consultation, as well as an existing application for judicial review brought by five local councils. Against this background, I urge the CCG to pause any decisions until they are able to present us with a clear and full vision for health services in our area, and can reassure us that they have considered all proposals on the table particularly Cherwell District Council’s Banbury Health Campus concept.”

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.

 

WE ARE ANXIOUS ABOUT THE FUTURE.

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.

 

WE ARE FRIGHTENED ABOUT SAFETY OF MOTHERS AND BABIES.

 

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.    

 

WE ARE ANGRY ABOUT PROCESS.

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. 

 

VICTORIA PRENTIS COMMENTS ON CCG DECISION PAPERS

“I have now had the opportunity to read the Clinical Commissioning Group’s papers. The recommendations of the CCG Board come as no surprise.

As I have made clear, I feel that the consultation was fatally flawed. While efforts have been made to seek further evidence to support phase one of the consultation, the CCG has not addressed properly our serious concerns about the process and impact. For example, in my conversations with Health Education England, I have been told that decisions regarding maternity and critical care will directly affect the provision of anaesthetic training in Banbury.  I fear this will have a knock on effect on the recruitment of anaesthetists in future. The papers before the Board do not reflect what I have been told. 

Over 10,000 responses to the consultation were received by the CCG, with the vast majority against service downgrade in Banbury. I am disappointed that the CCG are recommending that the board agrees to press ahead without listening the views of patients, rendering the consultation meaningless.”

To read the CCG’s decision papers and supporting documents, please click here

VICTORIA PRENTIS TO SPEAK AT Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee MEETING

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On Monday 7 August, the Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) will meet to examine the Oxfordshire Transformation Consultation Phase One consultation once again. The Committee will have the opportunity to question further the Clinical Commissioning Group, and consider the responses to the recent public engagement period. The meeting will take place in the same week as the CCG Board decides on the Phase One proposals. During HOSC’s meeting at County Hall in Oxford, Victoria Prentis, Member of Parliament for North Oxfordshire, will have the opportunity to speak to put her concerns on record. In particular, she will emphasise the need to consider the 10,000 responses to the consultation, and take note of all the views expressed throughout the exercise. She also hopes to make clear that any decision on the future of the maternity unit should be paused until all recruitment possibilities have been exhausted.

Speaking ahead of the meeting, Victoria said: “The joint Health and Overview Scrutiny Committee plays an important role in ensuring that any service reconfiguration is looked at carefully before it goes ahead. Throughout the Phase One period, they have taken their role very seriously, and have asked the Clinical Commissioning Group to return to a number of meetings, both to update members and to answer any further questions they might have. Next week is crucial for all of us involved in the campaign to retain acute services at the Horton General Hospital. As I made clear in a letter to CCG Board Members ahead of their meeting on 10 August, we must have a clear vision of healthcare in the county to understand properly the potential impact on the Horton General Hospital. The domino effect should not be underestimated. I am looking forward to attending HOSC to make this clear on Monday.”

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