CHERWELL District Council has unanimously agreed to disapprove the decision to downgrade maternity services at the Horton General Hospital.

Despite years of campaigners fighting to keep the obstetric unit at the Banbury site, Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG)'s board confirmed the closure of the unit and its replacement with a midwifery-led unit for the foreseeable future last month.

In a district council meeting on Monday, Conservative Councillor Andrew McHugh put forward a motion proposing the council to 'deplore' the decision and endorse the conclusions of the Horton Joint Health Overview & Scrutiny Committee (Horton HOSC), in bringing Oxford University Hospitals Foundation Trust (OUHFT) and CCG shortcomings to the forefront.

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The motion, which was seconded by Labour Councillor Sean Woodcock, was passed, and the council agreed to fully support Horton HOSC’s efforts to continue to hold the CCG and OUHFT to account and pursue an appropriate course of action.

Campaigners and councillors were disappointed in the way in which the CCG and OUHT carried out the maternity unit's temporary downgrade back in 2016, with criticism that there was no consultation for the public to have a say.

Banbury Labour Councillor Surinder Dhesi, said: "The figures were manipulated, the consultation was flawed, the questions were designed to give answers to what the CCG wanted to try and downgrade maternity services and I think it’s a shame on them.

"Banbury is growing at a fast rate and we should have a proper funded maternity unit."

Throughout the process, the council was told that the closure of the hospital's obstetrics unit had nothing to do with money, however when it became clear that this was not the case, North Oxfordshire MP Victoria Prentis petitioned Health Secretary Jo Churchill, who visited the Horton Hospital.

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Ms Prentis and Mr McHugh have since been invited to meet with CCG and the Trust to discuss a 'shared vision' for the site.

Mr McHugh will propose for a redevelopment of the hospital calling for Cherwell District Council to be a 'strategic partner'.

He said: "Victoria Prentis and I will be pushing for a large scale redevelopment of the site to include additional theatre space, additional ward space, rapid access diagnostics, an MRI scanner, flexible clinical space - that could in the future be used to deliver obstetrics - and I will also be asking for additional car parking and key worker housing on the site.

Lid Dem Councillor Katherine Tyson said: "I've had to go to Aylesbury, been on waiting lists and the idea that we're closing down more hospitals that are necessary within areas is absolutely atrocious and should be opposed by every single councillor.

"We need to be able to talk openly about past mistakes, regardless of party, and say more funding is necessary and call upon supporting our local facilities."