Crowds turned out in force once again to attend a public meeting at St. Mary’s Church on Thursday, jointly organised by Victoria Prentis MP and Banbury Town Council in which executives from the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust* and the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group** answered questions from the public concerning the future of the Horton General Hospital and in particular its obstetric, consultant led maternity unit.
A decision will be made on Wednesday as to whether the Horton’s maternity unit will be temporarily downgraded to a midwife-led unit after a nationwide crisis in recruiting obstetric doctors. Questions were asked surrounding the recruitment of doctors, travel time and duration to Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital, risks to pregnant mothers should they have to endure a lengthy journey to Oxford when requiring emergency obstetric support during labour and the longevity of services at the Horton.
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Dr. Bruno Holthof introduced the panel of representatives from the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, and the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group. “We have had difficulty finding physicians that will be able to staff the obstetric led maternity unit in the Horton General Hospital. I have said from the start, that the only decision criteria will be safety of our patients.”, Holthof exclaimed.
The evening was chaired by Reverend Philip Cochrane of St. Mary’s Church who clustered public questions together under various topical subheadings. Many responses and claims were ridiculed by the audience, particularly those encompassing patient safety, the attractiveness of the career opportunities and advertisements for obstetric consultants, and the distance to Oxford.
Catherine Greenwood, Obstetric Gynaecologist said the job adverts had been made attractive by being advertised at a premium wage and the trust had endeavoured to offer a job criteria with benefits that would be appealing to potential applicants. The Trust also initially increased the number of consultants in the rota from 8 to 9, to allow obstetric consultants to gain further training.
However, when asked about transport by blue-light ambulance to the John Radcliffe Hospital, Chief Operating Officer, Paul Brennan stated that statistics show 100% of patients are able to reach the John Radcliffe within 45 minutes during off-peak hours, and 88% of the population are reached in 30 minutes in peak hours.
Later, a Horton midwife made a stand to address the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust panel, delivering a statement on behalf of her colleagues and fellow staff. The speech received a standing ovation from the public.
“I am currently a midwife at the unit and we all would like to thank Keep the Horton General, for affording us these few moments to speak.
Until now our presence and our voices have remained quiet. But tonight I now call upon my sisters here in this hall to stand up with me. Stand tall, stand proud and stand united in our one voice, our one message.
We are all at our very core only focused on one thing. The safe provision of quality care to the women and families in our charge.
We plead now personally to you Dr. Bruno Holthof to reject your Trust’s contingency plans, to insist your obstetric consultants across both hospitals pull together temporarily with agency doctors until the proposed Ugandan Doctors are in post.
We demand we are no longer silenced, that our contribution and place within OUH NHS FT is acknowledged and respected and that despite the lack of trust in your Trust, Dr. Holthof, you prove to us, your staff, that you are patient focused, women centred and recognise fully the important crucial role the whole of the Horton General Hospital plays in this growing community.”
The public meeting ran from 19:00-21:00hrs on Thursday 25th August 2016.
*Representing the OUH NHS Foundation Trust: Dr. Bruno Holthof (CEO); Dr Tony Berendt (Director for Clinical Services); James Price (Divisional Director for Acute Medicine); Paul Brennan (Chief Operating Officer); Stephen Kennedy (Divisional Director for Women & Children); Catherine Greenwood (Obstetric Gynaecologist); Catherine Stoddart (Chief Nurse); Andrew Stevens (Planning & Information), amongst others.
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