DOZENS of protestors turned out in a last-ditch attempt to persuade hospital bosses to keep the pathology lab at Dorset County Hospital.

The hospital board is meeting this morning and a decision is expected to be announced later today over the future of the service.

Campaigners fear the contract will be awarded to a privately-run facility in Taunton, putting more than 100 jobs at the Dorchester service at risk.

Dozens of protestors lined up outside the Children’s Centre at the Dorchester hospital this morning where the meeting was due to take place.

Jon Dunn, regional organiser with Unison, said he feared privatising the service would be ‘the thin end of the wedge’.

He said: “There is a strong public interest in the future of the service and those making the decisions should engage with all stakeholders, and that includes staff and the public.”

West Dorset District and County Councillor Ros Kayes said she was pleased with the ‘excellent’ turnout.

She added: “It does show the strength of feeling. It’s good to see everyone united in this way and it shows how important the NHS is to people.”

Some cars passing the hospital entrance beeped their horns in support and members of the public watched the Bridport Community Branch of Unite perform a short play with characters representing the NHS and privatisation.

Protestors later moved to a fenced-off area of the car park following a request by hospital security staff to allow outpatients to access the children’s centre.

Sean Gray, a campaigner with Dorset HealthCare, said: “If the decision should go against us today, we will have questions. We will want to know about the process undertaken.”

He added that the support from the public had been ‘phenomenal’. A petition against moving the pathology lab from the hospital has collected over 11,000 signatures.

Mr Gray added: “People are worried about losing hospital services. If it’s pathology today, it may be other diagnostic or direct patient services in the future.

“We know there’s a programme of service reviews being undertaken but I think there’s little evidence in the long run that privatisation is any answer to the funding problems of the NHS.”