CHAMPAGNE corks have been popping after the future of Banbury’s Horton Hospital was finally secured.

Yesterday, Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals Trust agreed to pay the extra £900,000-a-year needed to pay for round-the-clock consultant-led children’s and maternity services at the Oxford Road hospital.

Last month, NHS Oxfordshire’s board approved its £1.5m portion of the expected £2.4m-a-year extra cost of consultant-led services.

The ORH trust board agreed to find its share of the money, at a meeting yesterday, which guarantees the future of the services in Banbury.

The decision follows a seven-year campaign by local people to retain the maternity and paediatric services at the hospital.

It had been feared patients would have been forced to travel to the John Radcliffe Hospital, in Oxford, for specialist care if the funding had not been approved.

George Parish, who led the Save the Horton Campaign, said: “I’m floating. I’m very proud of everyone who has worked hard to keep the Horton.

“I believe people in Banbury will be absolutely over the moon.

“All the campaigning over the past seven years has been worthwhile.

“It just shows what you can do if you work at it.”

Banbury MP Tony Baldry said: “I don’t think we should in any way underestimate what has been achieved.

“Seven years ago we were being presented with a done deal of the Horton’s services being downgraded, with the loss of 24-hour children’s services and the maternity unit downgraded to a midwife-led unit.

“This would have had a knock-on effect on other services and the Horton would no longer have been a general hospital, but a collection of services.

“This is a commitment by the ORH to keep services local.”

The hospital trust’s chief executive, Sir Jonathan Michael, said: “It’s quite clear as a trust we run three hospitals, the John Radcliffe, Churchill and the Horton.

“What we want to do is make sure that we provide as many services at the Horton as we can.

“Our vision is to develop services at the Horton where it’s sensible for us to do so.”

He also said chemotherapy treatment for cancer patients was set to expand at the Horton and added that the trust was considering the possibility of adding a kidney dialysis unit.

A recruitment drive to employ 26 extra consultant doctors to work at the ORH trust’s Oxford and Banbury hospitals will start soon, with the aim of having the new services in place within 12 months.

In September, a firm plan of how services will work will be presented to the trust board and in the longer term a masterplan for the future development of the Horton Hospital will be drawn up.