A HUGE crowd took to the streets of Dorchester to protest against proposed changes to children's services at Dorset County Hopsital.

It is estimated that more than 1,000 people took part in the march through the centre of town, backing the Echo lead campaign to show support for the hospital's Kingfisher Ward and Special Care Baby Unit.

Copies of our 'Hands off our Wards petition' were available to sign at the event, and many people took the opportunity to put their names down.

See a video of the march here

Healthcare services are under threat as part of a review of local health services being carried out by the Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).

As part of the Clinical Services Review, it is recommended that children who have serious illnesses or need long-term care would have to go to the east of the county.

There would also be just one Special Care Baby Unit – again, in the east.

Under the plans, a Paediatric Assessment Unit would be established at the Dorchester hospital.

It is stressed that no decisions have yet been made.

Families who have used the service were joined by councillors, hospital governors and other concerned local people as they marched from Top O' Town down through South Street to the Borough Gardens.

Dorset Echo:


A large crowd gathered at the car park with more people joining the march as it wound its way through town.

Campaigners chanted 'Save our wards' and 'What do we want? Kingfisher. When do we want it? Now!'

Speeches were made by the likes of march organiser Naomi Patterson, whose son George regularly needs care at DCH, and Cllr Ros Kayes, at the bottom of South Street and at the Borough Gardens.

Speaking to the Echo, Mrs Patterson was delighted with the turnout and the pressure it will put on the CCG.

She said: “Really delighted, it’s unbelievable really.

“I’m not surprised in another way. The two wards mean so much to so many people.

“It’s good to see so many communities come together.

“We’re not stopping here, we’re planning a meeting for our next step. It’s about getting the CCG To change the proposal before August. That’s what we’re aiming for.”

The campaigners hope to meet with the CCG in the next two weeks to discuss getting the proposals changed.

West Dorset District Councillor Ros Kayes was also pleased with the turnout, estimating almost 2,000 people attended.

She said: “It’s just stupendous.

“It just shows people really really feel strongly about this.

“The CCG have got to listen and take it out of their proposals. It is just not acceptable.”

Protesters gathered at the end of the march at the Borough Gardens for picnics and to hear speeches from the likes of Ros Kayes, Dorchester town crier Alistair Chisholm and Naomi Patterson.

Speaking at the bottom of South Street to the public, Alistair Chisholm, said: "If you look at the county of Dorset, Dorchester is right in the middle. It is the most sensible place to have and keep all the units necessary."

Throughout the day there was singing and chanting along with an array of banners as campaigners tried to make sure the CCG could not ignore their demands.

Police who had been looking after the protest said the march was peaceful with no trouble reported.

Additional reporting by Meghan Hindley.


Dorset Echo:

Parents join protest

MANY parents who have used the services joined the march and shared their stories with the Echo of why SCBU and Kingfisher are such vital services.

Paula Jolliffe from Bridport said: "I am amazed at the turnout today. I feel so passionately about this cause and I am so glad that so many people feel the same way.

"My son was in SCBU in 2010 and was very poorly.

"The staff were absolutely amazing.

"To get from Bridport to Bournemouth will be such a weight on the family."

Racheal Hussey from Dorchester said: "My daughter was born at 26 weeks old and was in hospital for months. If the hospital had been further away I know she wouldn't have survived the trip."

Warren Jones and his partner Steph Wright who live on Portland said: "Today is just the tip of the iceberg. The proposals are terrible, it's disgusting.

"It is putting people's lives at risk and it is outrageous."

Bron Dickenson, whose son Dominic was diagnosed with leukaemia at a young age was also out backing the campaign.

She said: "I think if they do it is going to cause real problems long term."


Joint statement on paediatric services issued by NHS Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group, Dorset County Hospital and Poole Hospital.

There has been no decision to close the Kingfisher inpatient unit or change the neonatal provision at Dorset County Hospital. Any decision on how children’s care is delivered in Dorset will not be made until spring 2016 after a full public consultation has taken place between August and November 2015. Before then, we encourage local people to provide their views during the consultation.

"Any proposal for paediatric services to be considered for a decision would ensure that the majority of children who require hospital based care at Dorset County Hospital would continue to receive care there.

"The ambition for future paediatric services for the whole of Dorset is to ensure safe, high quality care for all children and access to the right care at the right time for all children across the county.

"When children are unwell they need advice and treatment to be provided by the right people at the right time and in the right place. For more than three-quarters of children this care can be provided by GP and community services. The proposals have been developed with input from doctors, nurses, paramedics and patient and public representatives from across Dorset. They set out expanding and improving community services so that local people, including children, will have access to more services that are closer to home, available seven days a week and provided by appropriate teams of doctors, nurses and other professionals.

Of course, there will be times when children do need hospital-based services. The proposals are therefore also considering how best to have high quality, safe and affordable hospital based children’s services provided by a skilled and specialist workforce in the east and west of the county. These discussions are ongoing and include clinicians at Dorset County Hospital and Poole Hospital. They are considering inpatient provision and a paediatric assessment unit (a ward with beds in a hospital where children can be observed and treatment provided for short-stays).

"Therefore, having children’s inpatient provision at Dorset County Hospital has not been removed as an option for consideration.

"We believe it is vital that the healthcare for children in west Dorset continues to be provided by local GPs, community services and Dorset County Hospital. The current paediatric inpatient services at Dorset County Hospital will continue to provide good care for local children until such a time as any changes are agreed after the public consultation has been completed and the implementation timetable agreed.

"From late August 2015 the consultation documents which will clearly explain the proposals more fully will be available through GP practices, hospitals and a wide range of other community places. By joining the Health Involvement Network you will be notified as soon as they are published at the start of consultation."