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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 March 2008, 17:24 GMT
Struggling hospital's future safe
Hospital ward
Health Secretary Alan Johnson backed plans to keep the hospital
The future of a struggling district hospital in Oxfordshire has been secured by the Health Secretary.

The Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals NHS Trust wanted to move maternity and children's services from Horton General Hospital, Banbury, to Oxford.

The trust argued the move was necessary to ensure clinical safety.

But Health Secretary Alan Johnson said he "accepted in full" the recommendation of an independent panel that the plans should be refused.

The Horton General Hospital in Banbury must continue to serve the local community in north Oxfordshire
Independent panel's report

A public campaign against the trust's plans had seen protesters form a human chain round the hospital and march through the town.

The trust wanted to move overnight children's care to Oxford, as well as obstetricians - leaving midwives to run a new birthing unit without them.

It said it could not maintain safe services if they remained as they were because of staffing problems, created by the European Working Time Directive, and changes in medical training.

Cherwell District Council argued that moving the services to Oxford could compromise patient safety and discriminate against people living in deprived areas of Banbury.

In a statement, the Department of Health said: "Secretary of State for Health, Alan Johnson, has accepted in full the recommendations made by the Independent Reconfiguration Panel to reject proposed changes to maternity, paediatric, obstetric services and the Special Care Baby Unit at the Horton Hospital in Banbury."

The Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP), which advises the government on contested proposals to the health service in England, released its recommendations just hours before Mr Johnson's announcement.

'Wrong to speculate'

Its report said: "The Horton General Hospital in Banbury must continue to serve the local community in north Oxfordshire and surrounding counties.

"The IRP was asked to review the trust's proposals following local opposition to the changes and a subsequent referral to the Health Secretary from the Oxfordshire Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

"The IRP has advised the Secretary of State to reject the trust's proposals, because they fail to provide an accessible or improved service for local people."

The panel recommends that the hospital trust works with the local primary care trust "to carry out further work to set out the arrangements and investment necessary to retain and develop these services".

Trevor Campbell Davis, chief executive of Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals Trust, said: "Although the IRP does not support our proposals, it does recognise that services at the Horton General Hospital must change to ensure they remain appropriate, safe and sustainable."

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