LOCAL families whose childrens' lives have been saved at Dorset County Hospital have thrown their weight behind the Echo's campaign to protect paediatric services.

The Echo launched its campaign on Saturday, calling for the Kingfisher Ward and Special Care Baby Unit to remain untouched in plans for a complete overhaul of Dorset's healthcare services after we revealed that the Clinical Commissioning Group's proposals include having just one ward for seriously ill children and one baby unit for the county- in east Dorset.

Now, a local author whose grandchildren were treated at DCH said that the proposal being considered is 'nothing short of outrageous'.

Former naval commander Anthony Holt said: "To do this would deny children throughout the whole of rural Dorset access to essential and timely treatment where time delays can easily lead to tragedy.

"The child population in Dorset is steadily increasing, evidenced by the expansion in school rolls and the extensive housing development.

"In particular there are many children with special clinical needs.

"Are they all to be shipped en-masse to Poole? One wonders what grudge these chair-bound 'experts' harbour against innocent children in this county.

"No less than three of my grandchildren have needed fast and intensive treatment in DCH, two in the Special Care Baby Unit and One in Kingfisher Ward.

"Had any of this treatment required a journey of 30 miles into the busy conurbation of Poole and Bournemouth it is unlikely that some, if not all of them, would have survived.

Commander Holt described the Kingfisher Ward as 'haven of professional skill, care, kindness and understanding' when it comes to the needs of sick children and their parents.

He added: "When a child becomes seriously ill the whole life of the family is placed under unimaginable stress.

"If the child has then to be treated thirty miles away from home, remote from friends, school, and parents' employment, the pressures on the immediate and wider family can become almost impossible to manage.

"The doctors and nurses have established here a centre of excellence and to destroy this would be an act of culpable, criminal vandalism."

Under the plans, DCH would have a Paediatric Assessment Unit (PAU). Children with serious illnesses or needing long-term care would have to travel to the acute hospital, located in either Bournemouth or Poole.

The CCG says no decisions have yet been made.