HOPES have been revived for a full maternity service at the Horton General Hospital as seven doctors are due to be in post by the summer.

But there are still doubts over whether a full team of doctors will be able to be secured, as well as a question mark over the future of a 24/7 ambulance service.

Last week board members at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (OUH) were told two more doctors would be joining the current five in June or July.

In a written update for the OUH board, clinical services director Paul Brennan said: "The current recruitment round closes on May 28.

"The quality committee continues to keep under review the register of risks associated with the temporary suspension of maternity and neonatal services at HGH."

Since October the Horton has run a midwifery-led unit due to a lack of doctors, with 'high-risk' pregnant women and those who face complications in birth taken to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.

At the board meeting OUH repeated that nine consultants were needed to bring back the full service – so they could be rotated between Banbury and the JR as an incentive to stay.

It means that while seven doctors make the return of a full maternity service more likely, two more would still be needed to ensure it becomes a reality.

Meanwhile board papers revealed up to £800,000 has been spent on retaining a dedicated ambulance to take women to the JR, which may not be retained past this year.

Keith Strangwood, chairman of the Keep the Horton General campaign, said: "We have been talking to them about rotation for about 18 months.

"The fact they're waiting until they have nine doctors is a bit unreasonable but positive; at least they are starting to listen."

"We should open the unit tomorrow with seven doctors because every day we leave it there's another life at stake."

Meanwhile the Conservative parliamentary candidate for Banbury, Victoria Prentis, took Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt on a tour of the Horton last Thursday, but did not invite any press or members of the public.

Following the visit, which Mrs Prentis said had been helpful' for articulating the plight of the hospital, she explained she feared it would have resulted in a demonstration.

She said: "Given the depth of feeling locally I was worried that any advertising of his visit might result in a demonstration.

"While I strongly believe that there is a time and a place for peaceful protests such as the Hands Around Our Horton event last year, this was not it."