Skip to content

Jeremy Hunt halts Horton Hospital closure plans

There have been so many learning-points from the story of Horton Hospital and the NHS plan to close consultant-led maternity services in Banbury.  

In the latest development, Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt has accepted the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP)’s critique of Oxfordshire CCG’s plans. It gives NHS Managers little option but to abandon its proposals and re-think its approach completely.  

The CCG successfully defended the High Court case brought by campaigners, but as we predicted, this was not the end of the story. The IRP was clear that public and patient involvement had not been adequate and was equally firm that the proposed two-stage consultation had caused ‘confusion and suspicion’.

In his letter to the CCG, the Secretary of State supports the IRP analysis. Here are some excerpts from the letter: – 

  • “Consultation about the future of services on whatever scale, should take account of patient flows, and not be constrained by administrative boundaries.” 
  • ”It is self-evidently in the interests of the health service locally that all stakeholders should feel they have been involved in the development of proposals for change. If this was not true of the past, the CCG must ensure that it is moving forward;” 
  • “This requires renewing a joint commitment to learn from recent experience, work together better and create a vision of the future that sustains confidence amongst local people and users of the service….” 

The NHS had intended to follow the contentious consultation on Maternity with a much wider exercise on the future of other services at the Horton. The debate had largely centred around whether such a two-stage process was fair. This seems now to have been abandoned with the new CCG Chief Executive, Lou Patten taking personal charge of the Transformation Programme. Some words from the paper submitted to next week’s Board Meeting are quite instructive: 

  • It is proposed that we review our transformation programme and concentrate on developing place based, local discussions that address the needs of the local population, taking into account geography and available services  
  • This is likely to involve gradual change and testing of new service models locally, involving the public at the earliest opportunity, taking account factors such as rurality and local community assets. This is a completely different approach to the previous large-scale county wide consultation on specific services. (our underline) 
  • (re Community Hospitals)  …The CCG and Oxford Hospitals Foundation Trust have agreed that discussions need to be more about what services are required in localities and how best community hospitals might support (them), rather than a county-wide consultation on whether they should be removed or remain 

If these fine words are to be believed, it represents a retreat from a big bang, top-down kind of reconfiguration and the management style that accompanies it – at least for this area. We would love to see this story worked into a Case Study so that the many lessons evident from recent developments can be absorbed properly.  

Maybe, however, it might be best to wait to see what happens next. 


About the Author

Rhion Jones is considered a leading authority on Public Engagement and Consultation. A founding Director of the Consultation Institute, he is co-author of “The Art of Consultation” (2009) and “The Politics of Consultation” (2018). He has delivered over 500 training courses and Masterclasses and is a prolific writer on the subject, having written over 350 different Topic papers and over 50 full Briefing Papers for the Institute. Since 2003 over 15,000 person-days of training based on courses he invented have been delivered. Rhion is in demand as an entertaining Keynote Speaker and Special Adviser, particularly on the Law of Consultation, and its implications for Government and other Public Bodies. In 2017, he was awarded the ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’.

Read more about Rhion

Scroll To Top