Update 2019 – As I’m sure anyone in the constituency will know, there has been a lot of shocking news about the Horton in recent months. The CCG has been severely criticised as a result of their decision to permanently downgrade maternity care at the hospital. There’s also talk of further cuts to services there.
I have been involved with the campaign to save the Horton for several years now and as your MP I would make it one of my central positions within Westminster to restore a full range of services, along with my rock-solid commitment to bringing the NHS back into public hands as a fully funded and fully resourced service.
I have also spoken about this as a Cherwell District Councillor and written extensively about it in the Banbury Guardian. Whilst I accept that the CCG has a lot to account for over the decisions taken with the Horton, I feel Conservatives at national and local level are far too ready to lay all the blame on their shoulders, with accepting that their own underfunding and privatisation of the NHS has also been largely responsible.
The Horton General Hospital is the jewel in the crown of Banbury’s local health service. The recent moves to switch some services to other facilities outside the area is something that worried me greatly during the election campaign in 2015.
During that campaign Banbury was promised by their prospective new MP, Victoria Prentis, that she had the best interests of The Horton at heart and would fight tooth and nail to prevent ant erosion in services.
Yet less than a year after she was elected we saw the first moves to close the consultant led maternity unit and move so called non-urgent cases to the John Radcliffe. Now elected at MP for Banbury Ms Prentis was visible at many of the protests against the closure, along with a raft of local Conservative councillors. She has also made videos showing the ludicrous suggestion that mothers could be taken to the JR within 30 minutes as well as other minor campaigning moves such as questionnaires and surveys. Yet the one thing that she should be doing as Banbury’s MP – making a strong case in Parliament – is something that seems not to have been on her to-do list.
I suspect this because she dares not to challenge the Conservative party line which has driven Oxfordshire CCG and the Trust to take these unpopular decisions. Her main argument, in line with the government, is that the blame lies firmly with the CCG, neatly ignoring the fact that it’s her own party, her own colleagues, and the government that she supports and facilitates that has forced such moves on the Horton and many other local hospitals around the country, because of their relentless drive to cut NHS funding and reduce care no matter how many lives they risk.
And there’s more to come. Rumours and expectations are already rife that A&E services will be next on the chopping block, with Oxfordshire CCG currently embroiled in the latest government de-funding wheeze – The Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) – another re-organisation (which the Tories and Ms Prentis both promised would never happen again) which has one underlying agenda : To reduce spending on the NHS, even if that costs services and ultimately lives.
It’s about time that politicians, both local and national were held to account for this double speak. They either need to stand up against the priorities and ideologies of their own party – to see an end to fully funded socialised healthcare and further privatisation of our health service – or admit that they really don’t give a toss about the NHS. They can’t have it both ways.
The reduction of services at the Horton and the increased loading on the JR also has knock on effects across the county. This is a national issue and needs to be tackled by someone who really believes in the NHS. As your MP I wouldn’t shirk from attacking the Conservatives on their hypocrisy over the NHS and social care. As part of any government I would do my best to reverse the damage already caused and push for full funding of such vital services to ensure full and proper access to routine and emergency care for everyone.