CAMPAIGNERS say the tide is turning in their battle to stop sweeping changes to the county’s health service after a senior judge ordered a full hearing into their argument.

Cherwell District Council and members from Keep The Horton General (KTHG) group say they are one step closer in their challenge to Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group’s (CCG) ‘transformation plans’.

Last month the CCG approved the first phase of healthcare plans, including centralising acute stroke services, more bed closures and the permanent downgrade of maternity services at the Horton General Hospital to a midwife-led unit.

But those fighting the campaign have said the consultation into the scheme was flawed and challenged its legal grounding.

Sitting at the Royal Courts of Justice yesterday, Mr Justice Fraser agreed that a full hearing into the changes needs to be held by the end of the year.

If the judge rules against the CCG, a full judicial review will take place.
Chairman of KTHG Keith Strangwood said: “Throughout this whole process we have taken all the knock-backs and now it is time for the CCG to lick their wounds.

“When we have this full hearing and if the judge agrees that this consultation is illegal, then they will have to start the whole consultation from scratch. 

"It is teamwork that has got us here and the tide is finally turning. This is ground-breaking.”

The challenge was led by Cherwell along with Banbury Town Council, South Northamptonshire Council and Stratford-on-Avon District Council acting as co-claimants, with KTHG supporting them. 

But Mr Strangwood said the group would be seeking assurances from the CCG to ensure no permanent changes were made to the county’s healthcare provision before the judicial review.

He added: “Although their board may have approved the first phase, they cannot go ahead with any changes until we find out if this whole consultation needs to be scrapped and started again.”

Banbury MP Victoria Prentis said she was ‘absolutely delighted’ to hear about yesterday’s ruling.

She added: “From the very beginning it was clear that the CCG’s phase one consultation was fatally flawed.

“Despite making our views known time and time again, we have been ignored and yesterday’s decision by Mr Justice Fraser recognises that our concerns were well founded.

“I will now write to the CCG once again to urge them to abandon their phase one consultation in its entirety.”

The changes are also being examined by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt after councillors referred the decision.

Spokeswoman for the CCG Nikki Malin said: “We are fully aware of the outcome of today’s oral hearing seeking permission for a judicial review and will co-operate with the process as appropriate.”