MORE than 1,000 signatures have been collected by campaigners fighting to keep a pathology laboratory in Dorchester.

The Dorset Health Campaign was at the Town Pump on Saturday with a petition raising awareness of the threat to close the NHS Pathology Laboratory at Dorset County Hospital (DCH).

There are 100 people who work at the laboratory who assist to guide the treatment of patients and help to prevent infection in the hospital.

Private companies are being invited this summer to bid to deliver this service in place of the current setup.

There are concerns that the new service would be located outside of Dorchester and cause a number of job losses.

The Dorset Health Campaign is an independent group of Dorset residents who campaign for a transparent, accountable and publicly provided NHS.

Cllr Ros Kayes, a founding member of the campaign, said: “We were overwhelmed by the number of staff members from the hospital who came down especially to sign the petition and express their support.”

Cllr Kayes will be asking the health scrutiny committee at Dorset County Council to take action and address some of the campaign’s concerns at its meeting on Tuesday June 24.

She added: “We need to keep as many services as possible at DCH in order for it to remain a viable acute hospital.

“Any reduction of services sets alarm bells ringing for me. This constitutes a major change to service provision in West Dorset and it needs to be challenged.”

A report to Dorset County Council’s Dorset Health Scrutiny Committee on May 23 stated the aims of DCH’s project were to compare its pathology services against other interested providers.

This would help determine whether DCH is providing the best value service and the outcomes would be used to inform a decision on the future provision of the service.

Out of 29 interested parties, four have been selected to move onto the next stage of procurement. These are a mixture of NHS and private organisations.

Hospital bosses have said if the current services at DCH are found to be the best the service will stay at the hospital, with essential pathology services remaining on site.

They also confirmed that whilst no decision had been made yet that if there was a new provider of pathology services, staff would be protected under employment law.

The final decision of the future of the pathology service is expected in September.