CAMPAIGNERS have hailed a move by hospital bosses to develop a pathology service at Dorset County Hospital as ‘absolutely the right decision’.

At a meeting today board members decided in favour of a recommendation from experts to keep the threatened service and commit an additional £100,000 to the facility.

It comes after protestors gathered at the hospital ahead of the meeting over fears that the service would be handed to a privately-run facility at Taunton, putting 100 jobs at risk.

More than 11,000 people signed a petition demanding the path lab be kept in Dorset.

Describing it as a victory for people power, Sean Gray, of Dorset Health Campaign said the support from staff and residents ‘must have been a significant factor’ in the decision.

He added: “It’s brilliant news. I am hugely delighted, it’s the best thing that could have happened for local and national healthcare. We have got to commend the board for making the correct decision.

“Nationally, our NHS is at risk of slipping away, but not today in Dorset.”

The board members made their decision at their monthly meeting after hearing the findings from the group, which was led by pathology staff at the hospital.

The group led an evaluation of proposals from eight organisations who were invited to bid to run the labs in partnership.

Trust Chairman Dr Jeffrey Ellwood said: “With NHS funding under tremendous pressure it is incumbent on the Board of DCH to ensure that services provided are of high quality, are safe and provide value for money for taxpayers - and if we didn’t we would be negligent in our duty.

“It is not surprising therefore that the Board decided to benchmark DCH pathology services against other pathology service providers.

“We followed strict NHS procurement rules to ensure the final outcome had integrity.”

Jon Dunn, a regional organiser with Unison, who also attended this morning’s protest, said it is ‘the right decision for Dorset and the NHS’.

He added: “We want to give the board full credit for having listened and for making a courageous decision.”

Mr Dunn said he hoped other trusts considering privatising parts of their services would now take the example set by Dorset County Hospital.

“We do recognise the challenges ahead and we will be happy to work in partnership with the hospital to continue to provide this excellent service.”

Trust Chief Executive Patricia Miller added: “We have already invested over £500,000 in pathology services over the last year to improve the service, and today committed an additional £100,000.

“I believe our in-house service will now go from strength to strength and I want to pay tribute to our staff for their leadership and professionalism during the tendering process.”


HOSPITAL chief executive Patricia Miller has praised staff from the pathology lab for their professional conduct throughout the review and has stressed that privatisation was never the board’s objective.

She said: “One of our objectives as a board is to make sure all of our services we provide are high quality and demonstrate value for money for taxpayers.

“Having looked at all the evidence this afternoon at the board meeting we decided we would retain our in-house service and we would not enter into a partnership arrangement with another provider.

“We were absolutely clear that our staff had made significant improvements to the service over the last year and that, coupled with investment we made this year, we thought provided a solid foundation to move the service forward from strength to strength.”

Mrs Miller said staff had been relieved to hear the decision this afternoon and said that there would be ‘no significant changes’ to the staffing levels in the service moving forward.

She added: “The board made a point of thanking them as they have been extremely professional throughout the whole of this market testing process, which has gone on for several months, and continued to provide a good quality service.”

Mrs Miller added that, despite the high profile campaigning voicing fears that the hospital was privatising services, that had never been the intention of the service review exercise.

She said: “We have never said our intention was to privatise them, that was never our objective.”

Dorset County Hospital public governor Michel-Hooper-Immins welcomed the final decision.

He said: “I am delighted that our directors have wisely resolved to continue to invest in our in-house pathology services at Dorchester.

“In the last year, I have talked to many hospital staff and local GPs, who all praise the high quality and rapid response of DCH pathology services.

“Privatisation would have been the wrong move. Look at the shambles following the privatisation of the non-urgent patient transport service in Dorset.

“Having to physically move all blood samples into the next county was always going to induce delay, as well as producing practical difficulties during severe winter road conditions.

“Finally, this decision is a victory for patient power- following a great deal of patient comment- mostly adverse- to taking the service away from Dorchester to Taunton or elsewhere.”