Banbury Horton Hospital maternity unit downgrade 'risks lives'

Rally at Horton Hospital
Image caption Campaigners have led a series of protests against plans to downgrade maternity services

Downgrading a hospital's maternity service will put the lives of mothers and babies at risk, political parties in the area have warned.

The unit at Banbury's Horton General Hospital will be midwife-led, rather than consultant-led, from October.

But a joint statement from Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat, Green and UKIP representatives said they had "major concerns".

The hospital trust said patient safety was behind its decision.

The joint statement said the politicians wanted to "show a unified front in support of the staff at our hospital" and described the "unity amongst politicians of the area" as "almost unprecedented".

It added: "Downgrading the unit to a midwife-only service, leading to women in labour having to travel to the [Oxford] John Radcliffe consultant-led unit an hour's drive away, will put the lives of both mothers and babies at risk.

"We believe the decision to downgrade the service at the Horton, even on a temporary basis, is wrong."

Former prime minister David Cameron, MP for nearby Witney, added his voice in support of campaigners on Thursday when he said the unit "won't be able to look after all mothers' needs".

Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said it was trying to recruit doctors as soon as possible.

Bosses revealed in June they might have to downgrade services because there were not enough obstetricians to provide a "safe and effective service".

A petition with 17,000 signatures against the plan was delivered to a meeting on Wednesday when the suspension of services was approved.

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