Cherwell District Council – ‘Update on The Horton General Hospital Legal Challenge’

The following update has been released by Cherwell District Council regarding The Horton General Hospital legal challenge – 

Bitter disappointment as Horton legal challenge is dismissed

The leader of Cherwell District Council has expressed his “bitter disappointment” after losing a legal challenge against the way plans to downgrade services at Banbury’s Horton General Hospital were consulted upon.

Following a two day hearing earlier this month, High Court Judge Mr Justice Mostyn has announced his decision to dismiss a judicial review led by the council, which accused Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (OCCG) of carrying out a flawed and confusing consultation process.

The challenge had been brought to London’s High Court by Cherwell District Council, with support from South Northamptonshire Council, Stratford-on-Avon District Council and Banbury Town Council acting as co-claimants.

Cllr Barry Wood, leader of Cherwell District Council, said: “Cherwell District Council and its partner councils in the judicial review relating to the Horton General Hospital are bitterly disappointed by the judgement from our legal challenge. The council is very aware of the significant concern of local people about the withdrawal of acute services at our local hospital and felt that a legal challenge was an appropriate action to take to reflect the extent of that concern.

“Despite this, the council will not ‘rest on its laurels’ and will now focus its attention on the referral of the withdrawal of the obstetrics service to the Secretary of State for Health and his hopeful instruction to his specialist panel to review that decision.”

Cherwell appealed six points relating to the two-phase consultation process led by OCCG, but all were dismissed by High Court Judge Mr Justice Mostyn. These focused on;

• The interdependencies of clinical disciplines and the split consultation
• Misleading maternity information
• Insufficient information
• Not meeting the new Government test for hospital bed closures 
• Legitimate expectation 
• Inadequate ambulance service effect.

The OCCG consulted on five key proposals which included taking all of the most serious critical care patients and all stroke cases directly to Oxford. The consultation also proposed changing the way hospital beds are used and permanently closing almost 200 beds between the Horton and Oxford hospitals.

A key aspect of the changes would involve changes to the maternity unit and replacing a consultant-led service with only midwives. This would mean there would be no doctors or opportunity for epidural relief which means over 80 per cent of mothers will have to travel to Oxford or other hospitals.

The only proposal which would increase availability at the Horton would relate to planned care services. These are procedures and treatments which are not carried out in an emergency but are planned in advance, such as outpatient appointments, elective surgery and diagnostic activities and are welcomed with the right investment.

A link to Mr Justice Mostyn’s judgement will be uploaded in due course at http://www.bailii.org/ and can be searched by citation number [2017] EWHC 3349 (Admin) or by case name Cherwell District Council & Others and Oxfordshire CCG and Keep the Horton General