IT is time to go ‘back to the drawing board’ over a radical overhaul of Oxfordshire’s health service, according to MP for north Oxfordshire Victoria Prentis.

The Tory MP was responding to an independent report into the decision to downgrade maternity services at the Horton General Hospital as part of the Sustainability Transformation Plan, led by Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).

The report by the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP) found that a public consultation over the changes was ‘confusing’ and ‘added to public suspicion’.

The IRP also criticised the two-phase consultation saying changes in phase one would inevitably affect changes in phase two, which are yet to be decided on.

The report, ordered by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, said more work should be undertaken before a final decision is made on the future of services at the hospital in Banbury.

Ms Prentis, who roundly criticised the decision to downgrade the service from doctor-led to midwife-led, said: “It has been a profoundly difficult situation for all of us who use the Horton, particularly for those who have been affected by the closure of the obstetric unit.

“The IRP’s conclusion that further work needs to be undertaken comes as a huge relief and is recognition of what many of us have been saying repeatedly since the flawed consultation process began.”

She added: “It is time for us to draw a line under the past two years.

“We need to start again with a blank sheet, and work together to focus on a real vision for the future of healthcare in Oxfordshire.”

Chairman of Oxfordshire’s Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HOSC), Arash Fatemian, said the IRP’s report vindicated the ‘anger and frustration’ felt across the community for the last two years.

However, campaign group, Keep the Horton General, criticised the IRP report saying the review fell short.

In a post on its Facebook page the group said: “The IRP is effectively leaving the CCG to its own devices in terms of the final decision for maternity, in spite of significant evidence that it would be unsafe to leave vast, semi-rural population without reasonable access to obstetric services.”

Campaigners were also critical of the failure of the IRP to recommend a new public consultation on the changes.

CCG chief executive Louise Patten said it would now work with the HOSC, as instructed by the IRP, and that it would approach the IRP recommendations in a way that ‘ensures all stakeholders feel involved and informed’.

Phase one of the Transformation Plan, led by the CCG, saw a raft of changes implemented last year, including a number of permanent bed closures as well as the changes at the Horton.

The move means mothers who are considered to have a high-risk pregnancy have to travel to Oxford to give birth.