A new legal hearing has been granted into the proposed downgrade of an Oxfordshire hospital.
In August, Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group approved controversial plans to downgrade maternity and intensive care units at the Horton General Hospital.
However, four councils have now been granted a hearing to make their case for a full judicial review of the changes.
Cherwell District Council, South Northamptonshire Council, Stratford-on-Avon District Council and Banbury Town Council have initiated the legal action as they are unhappy with the way the consultation to close services was carried out.
Oxford CCG decided to consult with the public on the planned care reconfigurations in two phases. Last month, it announced its decisions based on the first stage of the consultation. The start date for the second stage of the consultation is yet to be set.
The councillors claim this approach has made the consultation “inadequate, fundamentally flawed and confusing for people who wanted to have their say on the future of their local hospital”. Campaigners also feel decisions made in phase one could predetermine the outcome of phase two.
The application for a judicial review was initially refused. The latest ruling, made at the Royal Courts of Justice earlier this week, comes after the councils sought to renew the application, meaning they applied to give oral evidence in addition to the written evidence submitted to support their bid for a full judicial review.
No date for the hearing has been set but it is expected to take place later this year.
A spokesman for the CCG said it “will cooperate with the process as appropriate”.
Plans for the Horton hospital have been mired in controversy. In addition to the latest ruling, the downgrade has been subject to referrals to the health secretary about the consultation process and some of the decisions the CCG has made.
HSJ previously reported that an independent reconfiguration panel was due to report back to Jeremy Hunt at the start of this month on its initial assessment of one of the referrals.
The Oxfordshire joint health overview and scrutiny committee referred its concerns to Mr Hunt about the lack of consultation on the ongoing temporary downgrade of Horton’s obstetrics unit to a midwife led only one.
Information provided to HSJ
7 September 2017