HOSPITAL bosses have hit out at campaigners fighting to retain pathology services at Dorset County Hospital over accusations that managers are refusing to reveal details of the proposed changes.

Four outside bodies have been invited to bid for the Dorchester hospital’s pathology services, a move which has sparked the newly-formed Dorset Health Campaign into launching a petition to keep the laboratory in the county town.

The petition has already attracted hundreds of signatures and members of the campaign group have now asked the hospital if they can see the specification for the new service, which would list exactly what the prospective new providers would be asked to deliver.

However, Sally Cooke from the DCH says she was told by the hospital’s director of finance and resources Libby Walters that the specification was ‘not a public document’ and was only shared with the bidders that had been shortlisted through the procurement process.

Sally said: “I can’t see why the hospital feels the need to be secretive about this. I understand that even the hospital Governors have not seen this document, and they are meant to be looking after the public interest in the hospital.

“This is an example of how ‘commercial confidentiality’ is used to hide what is going on in what should be a public service.

“It shows that the new structures in the NHS are turning it more and more towards an American-style system driven by profit, and not by an ethic of public service, on which our NHS was founded.”

Dorset County Hospital’s Chief Executive Jean O’Callaghan responded: “This campaign group seems intent on spreading misinformation about the pathology project.

“We are not being secretive. In fact we have been very open about the project and the reasons why we are going through this tendering process.

“We have shared a lot of background information and myself and the hospital chairman are meeting with Cllr Ros Kayes next week.

“There is a procurement process which must be followed and that is what we are doing.”