DORSET County Hospital governors and bosses have launched a fierce defence of its services in the wake of a proposed shake-up of healthcare in the county.

Representatives from the Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) faced tough questioning and heard strong opinions as they gave a presentation to a meeting if the hospital governors on the controversial clinical services review.

Proposals in the review include changes to paediatric services that could see children who need long term care or who are seriously ill sent to Poole or Bournemouth.

Dorset County Hospital chief executive Patricia Miller told the CCG team that there was evidence to show that moving to a paediatric assessment unit could also 'destabilise' the Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU) because of the inter-dependencies between the two.

She said: "The paediatric model that is being suggested does not work cohesively with that obstetric model."

Governors pleaded with the CCG representatives to make sure that the public consultation due to begin in August is meaningful and the opinions of local people are listened to.

Mrs Miller told the CCG that there was also a need to make sure the most vulnerable and hard to reach had their voices heard because they were likely to be the ones most adversely affected by any changes.

She also warned about some of the language being used by the CCG, particularly when it was suggested that some of the proposals put forward were not a reduction on existing services.

Other concerns raised by governors included the lack of detail and clarity regarding proposals for consultant cover in emergency services and other areas and the proposed 'networking' system with hospitals in the east of the county.

Michel Hooper-Immins accused the CCG of making it up on the hoof' while fellow governor Andy Hutchings stressed the importance of getting the decisions right.

He said: "This report is the most important shake-up of health in Dorset since the start of the National Health Service in July 1948.

"This is going to go forward for many years and we have to get it right."

When pushed by trust chairman Jeffrey Ellwood on whether any decision had been taken yet on the future of the Kingfisher Ward, he was assured by the CCG team it had not been made.

Director of engagement and development Charles Summers stressed no decisions on any of the proposals had been made.

He said: "No decisions have been taken subject to public consultation and external reviews."

Mrs Miller said that with a £200million funding gap facing local health services by 2021, it was accepted a review was needed as it was clear things had to change.

She said: "We can't carry on doing everything in Dorset the way we currently do it because it is completely unaffordable.

"We have to consider how our residents get safe access to care and equity of access to care."