CAMPAIGNERS have said they are 'optimistic' when health bosses hear from mothers impacted by downgrading maternity services in north Oxfordshire they will help reverse the decision.

An all-day consultation will take place later this month over controversial plans to permanently close doctor-led maternity care at the Horton Hospital in Banbury – meaning if there are complications during pregnancy women have to go to Oxford's already-stretched John Radcliffe Hospital.

Keith Strangwood, chairman of Keep the Horton General, said the December 19 meeting was an opportunity for the Horton Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HHOSC)- a key watchdog committee made up of county councillors, district councillors and members of the public – to hear directly from those affected.

He said: "Since October 2016 women have experienced a whole host of problems from the distance they have to travel, to finding parking at the John Radcliffe and not receiving one-on-one care. It just isn't practical.

"We have already compiled a group of testimonies from mothers but this will be a chance for the committee to hear firsthand what has been happening.

"We're optimistic when that happens the committee will refer the decision back to the Secretary of State to reverse the downgrading."

Last year Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) decided to permanently downgrade the unit at the Banbury hospital from consultant led to midwife-led as part of phase one of its Transformation Plan.

The Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP) - the expert review body on NHS service change – agreed to examine the case after it was referred to then Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt by Oxfordshire’s Joint Health and Overview Scrutiny Committee (JHOSC).

In a report published in March, the IRP said the public consultation process ‘fell short’ and the decision by the CCG to split the overhaul of local health services into two phases had led to 'confusion and suspicion'.

Mr Hunt accepted the panel’s advice and suggested that a new committee spanning the Horton’s multiple-county catchment area be created – leading to the creation of the HHOSC.

Arash Fatemian, chairman of the committee, said: “We want to ensure health scrutiny of consultant-led obstetric services at the Horton General Hospital is as effective as possible.

“We want to know what the impact has been of the closure of the obstetric unit and what people think would be the impact of a permanent closure."

He added: “This was a really successful exercise last time around, hearing experiences of mothers firsthand and also a real cross-section of the community, from local politicians right through to local clergy.”

The public meeting will take place from 10am at Banbury Town Hall. Anybody who wishes to speak should contact Julie Dean via email at People are invited to specify what time they want to speak and a timetable will be drawn up. A written statement or video presentation of no more than five minutes can also be submitted.