ALL SIX parliamentary candidates made a powerful commitment to the Horton General Hospital at an NHS-themed hustings for the Banbury constituency.
Asked whether they would vote against their own party if it brought forward a policy that would damage the Horton, each agreed.
The meeting at St Mary’s Church on Thursday night was attended by Victoria Prentis, Conservative; Sean Woodcock, Labour; Ian Middleton, Green; Roseanne Edwards, National Health Action Party; John Howson, Liberal Democrat; and Dickie Bird, UKIP.
The question was posed by chairwoman Anita Higham OBE.
She said: “We are not going to be addressing any aspect of the political agenda.
“We are focusing exclusively on healthcare through the NHS and how it will impact local people’s lives and the Horton.”
Mr Bird said: “We are lucky in Banbury constituency because all six people here support the NHS.
“I think we’re all in the same boat – we haven’t allocated enough money.”
National Health Action Party candidate Ms Edwards said: “We would call for an immediate cash injection from the tax system and an end to tax dodging.
“We would find immediately between £4bn and £10bn by ending the internal market.”
Mr Howson emphasised the importance of a strong economy to future NHS services.
The Health and Social Care Act 2012 was also debated, with Sean Woodcock saying Labour would repeal it.
Controversial moments during the debate came when Ms Prentis noted the “troubling” shortage of GPs in Bicester and said: “The amount of women working part-time means we have fewer working GPs. We need to encourage back-to-work arrangements.”
It was also noted that, at present, about £1,200 a minute is spent by the NHS on agency nurses.
In response to this Mr Middleton suggested a rule insisting that people who have trained in the NHS must stay there for a set period.
One Audience member John Morgan cast doubt on Horton-centric thinking in the debate.
He said: “The Horton is a satellite of the JR and we have got to accept that services are better at the JR. It’s a worldwide reputation hospital.”
This was refuted by another participant who pointed out that a growing Banbury population – set to rise by 22,500 by 2031 – would need more medical facilities.
About 100 people attended the hustings, including pupils from Banbury Academy and Chenderit School. More than 1,200 leaflets had been distributed by the Keep the Horton General Campaign, which organised the event.
Campaign chairman Keith Strangwood spoke during the debate, saying more than 1,700 local people went to the JR last year for emergency surgery. Emergency abdominal surgery was scrapped at the Horton in 2013.
Speaking afterwards, he said: “If we lost any more services we will be downgraded.
“It will be the A&E next.
“The fact that all six of them came tonight shows they know it’s the number one issue in the general election.”