PATIENTS and campaigners in North Oxfordshire hoping to see their hospital’s maternity unit restored should not hold their breath, it has been warned.

In October last year maternity services at the Horton General Hospital were downgraded to midwife-led status due to the lack of doctors in post.

Since then expectant mothers deemed high-risk, or those who face complications during labour, have had to travel to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford to give birth.

In a report to the board of Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust on Wednesday, clinical services director Paul Brennan said seven out of nine middle-grade doctors needed at the Horton were now in post.

He said: “As the board will recall, we absolutely need nine to maintain the rota.

“To make the jobs attractive they are being rotated through the John Radcliffe.

“Those middle grade doctors are working at the JR for now; some want to get on the specialist register so giving them that experience at the JR is really positive. They also run antenatal and screening classes at the Horton, so they get that balance.”

But he added that efforts to recruit consultant obstetricians had led to less promising results, with just three in post.

He said: “We also need a minimum of five consultants to run the rota.

“We have had a rolling advert for eight months now and we haven’t had one appointment.”

Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group is to consider making the downgrade to maternity at the Horton permanent in a meeting on August 10.