Official review tells Hunt to knock back hospital downgrade

Full story in The HSJ, 8 March 2018

An independent review has recommended Jeremy Hunt knocks back an NHS decision to downgrade a general hospital’s maternity services.

The Independent Reconfiguration Panel also told the health and social care secretary, in advice published this week, a “lack of knowledge” about consultation and engagement was hampering service change across the NHS.

In August, Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group approved controversial plans to permanently downgrade Horton General Hospital’s maternity service to a midwife-led only unit. The unit had been temporarily downgraded 10 months prior as Oxford University Hospitals Foundation Trust, which runs the hospital, said it could not recruit enough doctors to run a safe obstetric service.

Oxfordshire’s joint health overview and scrutiny committee referred the decision to Mr Hunt, saying the consultation process was inadequate and the proposals were not in the interests of the area. Mr Hunt passed them to the IRP.

The IRP said this week it found “further action was required locally before a final decision is made about the future of maternity services in Oxfordshire”. It said OUH must continue the recruitment process for obstetric doctors at Horton until a final outcome is reached.