Masthead Local Govt - Litigation

Councils lose High Court challenge over hospital services downgrade

A High Court judge has dismissed a legal challenge led by Cherwell District over plans to downgrade services at Banbury’s Horton General Hospital amid claims of a flawed consultation process.

Cherwell had brought the case with support from South Northamptonshire Council, Stratford-on-Avon District Council and Banbury Town Council acting as co-claimants.

The councils appealed six points relating to the two-phase consultation process led by Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (OCCG), but all were dismissed by 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.

Cllr Barry Wood, leader of Cherwell, 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.”

The OCCG had 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.

Cherwell said 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, the council said. 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.

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