Hospital Will Continue With Plans To Scrap Children’s Services

A hospital trust is to face scrutiny from an independent panel after vowing to scrap services for children and new mothers. The Horton General Hospital in Banbury plans to downgrade a 24hr children’s ward to a day centre, close a special care baby unit and use midwives rather than consultants to run its maternity unit.

This means children needing 24-hour care, mums with pregnancy complications and very premature babies would have to travel 30 miles to Oxford for treatment. Campaigners had hoped the Oxford Radcliffe Trust would drop the proposals after the Oxfordshire Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee referred them to health minister Alan Johnson last month.

But at a public meeting, the trust voted unanimously to push on with the proposals despite fears raised by local people, councillors and GPs. A spokeswoman from the trust said the plans were in line with Government policy to concentrate specialist care in fewer centres as staff worked fewer hours under the European work time directive.

But Dr Peter Scholar, chair of the scrutiny committee, said the trust could avoid closures by sharing staff from its other hospitals with the Horton. Dr Peter Fisher, a former consultant at the Horton and a member of the Keep the Horton General campaign, added: “The greatest concern is the changes to maternity services. Choice is fine but this policy is going contrary to that.”

Fisher said around a third of pregnancies initially deemed safe needed last-minute consultant care during labour.