BRIDPORT councillor and Liberal Democrat Parliamentary candidate for South Dorset Ros Kayes is calling for an inquiry into the financial management Dorset County Hospital as it heads for a £7.5million deficit.
She said: “If, as suggested, other trusts of a similar size and serving similar populations have not gone into the red then there needs to be an inquiry into how this happened.
“Why were alarm bells not ringing much earlier?”
Coun Kayes said with the hospital ‘haemorrhaging’ an average of half-a-million pounds a month the overspend should have been picked up and dealt with earlier.
She said: “This is a big overspend for a trust of this size, but there is no procedure for holding those responsible to account. As with bankers whose gambling with finances has led to huge public losses, the public feels that there needs to be a mechanism whereby at the very least those responsible for the debt do not get off with a golden handshake.
“I think it is criminal that they could have been aware of a £1.84million deficit and allowed it to weigh up and get even worse.
“It’s not just down to one man but the whole board. Something procedurally must have gone very wrong and they all have a collective responsibility.”
However, South Dorset MP Jim Knight and West Dorset MP Oliver Letwin are against a public inquiry.
Mr Knight said a public inquiry could cost more than the deficit and would be a bizarre use of money.
“There should be clear public engagement about how services are arranged so that they can regain confidence in them.
Mr Knight has been meeting with hospital trust chiefs and the NHS Dorset Primary Care Trust to discuss plans for the future.
After holding a meeting to rally support for the hospital, Mr Letwin said a public inquiry could distract the hospital’s management from solving the actual problems.
“What actually matters is getting the problems sorted.”
Beaminster mum Rachel Hayball, who set up an online Facebook group called ‘Let’s Look After Dorset County Hospital’ has around 8,000 members. She agrees with Coun Kayes’ call for an inquiry.
l West Dorset breast Cancer Support Group is organising a street protest against possible closure of the hospital’s breast care unit.
Former patient Wendy Nightingale of Marshwood says the march will start on Tuesday in the hospital car park between entrances S1 and N1.
There is also an online petition running at http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/DorsetCancer/