West Dorset won’t lose its paediatric and maternity units to the east of the county but a Weymouth mental health unit will close and beds will be lost from Portland Hospital as part of the biggest shake-up of health services in a generation.

Although children's services provided at Dorset County Hospital (DCH) won't be 'centralised' in Bournemouth or Poole as originally feared, a separate review will consider the integration of these services with Yeovil District Hospital.

Final decisions have been made in NHS Dorset CCG's Clinical Services Review at a D-Day meeting in Dorchester amid angry protests from campaign groups. 

Around 150 people sat to hear the fate of Dorset’s health services at the Dorford Centre yesterday.

Key decisions made by the CCG governing body include that DCH will remain an emergency and planned care unit and keep its paediatric and maternity services which were at risk of being moved to east Dorset. 

This revised recommendation followed a major public campaign backed by the Echo to save the Kingfisher Ward at DCH.

A question mark now remains over the future of services at DCH as bosses unanimously agreed to integrate paediatric and maternity facilities with Yeovil District Hospital, but did not make a final decision on which hospital would retain a 24-hour service which has sparked concern among west Dorset residents.

Any proposed changes will go out to further consultation.
During the meeting, DCH chief executive Patricia Miller said: "We absolutely support the changes outlined.

"It makes sense to us to provide this service in a more collaborative way."

The hospital trust said later it was "delighted" the review had recognised the importance of DCH continuing to provide planned and emergency services to people in west Dorset.

It said it welcomed the preferred option for paediatric and maternity services in the west, with DCH working with Yeovil District Hospital.

Community services also face major changes as Westhaven Hospital in Weymouth will lose beds once a new hub is established at Weymouth Community Hospital.

Portland Hospital also faces closure as the CCG considers opening a community hub without beds at a different site. Wareham Hospital will also become a community hub without beds.

Controversially, Royal Bournemouth Hospital will become the major emergency hub for the east of the county leaving Poole Hospital for planned care with a 24/7 urgent care centre but without A&E.

In a further controversial move, health bosses also voted to close the Linden mental health unit at Westhaven Hospital after moving all 15 of its beds to St Ann’s Hospital in Poole and creating four more beds at the Forston clinic near Dorchester.

Dr Karen Kirkham, assistant clinical chairman at Dorset CCG, says the governing body is happy with the outcome of the review, which she believes has taken the views and concerns of the public into account. 

She said: "This has been a really detailed piece of work which we started three years ago. 

"I'm really proud of what we have done here, we have secured services. Many of us are working GPs. None of us could sit and ignore what people have said." 

Dorset CCG chairman Dr Forbes Watson said: "Today is a very important day for the history of the NHS in Dorset. We see this as the end of the beginning not the beginning of the end."

A CONTROVERSIAL decision to close the Linden Unit follows months of uncertainty over its fate. Dr Karen Kirkham said the decision is down to high demand for beds in the east of the county.

She said: "There will be additional beds at the Forston site. People may have to travel an extra 10 miles but they won't have to travel to the other side of the county."

Denise Andrews was a patient at Linden 10 years ago and has been a volunteer at the service for seven years.

She said: “If you speak to any patient, they will agree it is a vital service. Linden has a completely different atmosphere than any other hospital.

“It is more relaxed and calmer. We have a wonderful vegetable garden and greenhouse. You don’t feel like you are in a hospital."

The Linden Unit is a short-stay unit for people who suffer with functional disorders or addictions.

Denise said: “Its location is invaluable. When patients need to become more independent, there’s a bus every 10 minutes, activities nearby and shops just a short walk away.

“The new site is in the middle of nowhere. Patients are going to be out of their area and it will be harder for them to get back into society."

Denise added the service was consistently full and was crying out for beds and its closure was the biggest mistake health bosses could make.

“None of it makes any sense. They are saying it’s closing because it’s a standalone unit but that’s what makes it unique."

PROTESTERS from various campaign groups gathered outside the meeting where the CCG hired three security guards to ensure public safety.

Keep Our NHS Public Dorset staged a play outside the Dorford Centre followed by cries of "shame on you our CCG." 

Damien Stone, from Keep Our NHS Public Dorset, said: “We are against this completely and we do think they are going to fail eventually. 

“We think it’s going to lead to longer waiting times. In an emergency situation, it’s inevitable that people are going to take longer to get to an emergency hospital. 

“I’m concerned that the cuts are going to affect people in the west of the country."

Emily Bosher, from Bridport, said her son Archie relies on the Kingfisher Ward at DCH as he often gets ill at night. She said she is concerned that the hospital could lose its overnight paediatric service. 

Emily said: “I think what they’re doing is criminal, a lot of lives could be affected, and lost as well.

“The service in Yeovil is too far and it means driving long distance down dangerous windy roads.

“A lot of children get ill at night, and if they’re ill in the day and have to stay overnight, what will happen to them then?"

Naomi Patterson of Save Kingfisher and Maternity at DCH said: "We're delighted that we don't have to travel to the east of the county. 

"There's still uncertainty about the merge with Yeovil. We've teamed up with some Yeovil mums to raise vital awareness as we share the same concerns." 

Dr Jon Orrell, Weymouth GP and health campaigner, spoke out at the protests against the review which he called a "complete sham".

Dr Orrell said: “Our town faces savage cuts to community services. 

“We have already lost a dementia ward at Weymouth hospital. We’re about to lose Portland Hospital and the Linden Unit. If these cuts go through today, we will also lose Westhaven and will be left with the Melcombe Avenue site. 

"This will cause a massive loss of services for older people."