The Health and Social Care Act 2012 introduced radical changes to the way in which healthcare was organised including the introduction of Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) who are responsible for two thirds of all NHS spending, controlling £73.6 billion of taxpayers’ money. Decisions taken by CCGs affect elective hospital services, emergency and urgent care, community care and mental health support services.
The principle of CCGs - ensuring that the health services in our communities reflect the needs of our communities - is, on the face of it, sensible. However, they should be accountable to the public they serve and the decisions they make should be available for public scrutiny.
Local authorities can refer decisions of CCGs to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care where they believe that proper consultation on a service has not taken place or where they consider that “the proposal would not be in the interests of the health service in its area.”
The decision to close permanently consultant-led maternity services at the Horton Hospital was taken by Oxfordshire CCG as a result of the first phase of the NHS Consultation which took place in early 2017 about six months after the temporary closure of in-patient services in Wantage Community Hospital.
This decision was referred to the Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP on 30 August 2017 by Oxfordshire Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee.
Mr Hunt then asked for advice from the Independent Reconfiguration Panel.
This Panel have recently released their report to Mr Hunt and in it they state that “it is self-evidently in the interests of the health service locally that all stakeholders should feel they have been involved in the development of proposals for change. If this was not true of the past, the CCG must ensure that it is so moving forward.”
They also say “It is the Panel’s view that the challenges facing the health and care system in Oxfordshire, in terms of the sustainability and quality of services, must be confronted honestly by all parties. This requires renewing a joint commitment to learn from recent experience, work together better and create a vision of the future that sustains confidence amongst local people and users of services. It is in everyone’s interest that the next phase is commenced as soon as is practicable”.
We don’t yet know what will happen to the Horton maternity services but we hope that the vision for the future of Wantage Hospital involves the people of the area and results in a decision that we can have confidence in.