On 25 May the Department for Health and Social Care released an update on the new hospital programme (NHP), in which they prioritised five hospitals deemed unsafe because they were constructed using aerated concrete (RAAC). It wasn’t clear to me then that the remaining bids – including the Horton’s – were unsuccessful as a result.
It has since come to my attention that the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust had received a letter that same day explaining that the Horton had not been selected to join the programme. Not knowing this and given the limbo I thought we remained in, I wrote to the Health Secretary just last week asking for some clarity on the bid believing it to remain active.
I have visited the Horton since May and met representatives from the Trust. At no point did they mention the letter and the outcome of the bid. I am bitterly disappointed at this lack of communication. While we have come a long way since that dreadful day seven years ago when we heard about the maternity services downgrade, it is very difficult for me to work with the Trust when information is not shared openly with me. It is even more frustrating given the support I gave the Trust in producing their future vision for the Horton.
What is clear is that we all agree that the Horton is in desperate need of investment. Throughout the New Hospitals Programme process I have always been open with the Trust that if their bid was not successful, we must have a Plan B. It is now time for them to explore all available funding options whether that be through different schemes operated by the Department of Health, or capital investment overseen by the Integrated Care Board or NHS England. I had already arranged meetings with the new Chief Executive of the BOB ICS, Dr Nick Broughton, and the Chief Executive of OUHFT, Meghana Pandit, in the weeks ahead. The Horton will now be front and centre in those discussions.
As I made clear in my letter to the Secretary of State, the Horton has a long history serving residents in Banbury and beyond. We are all immensely protective of our local General Hospital and have welcomed the investment in recent years, including the new CT scanner facility. I remain absolutely determined to ensure that the future vision for the Horton becomes a reality.