CONSULTATION on the future of Dorset’s health services is set to be delayed until next year.

The Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) was due to start consultation in August over its Clinical Services Review, which includes controversial changes that could see children's inpatient services at Dorset County Hospital transferred to either Poole or Bournemouth.

Campaigners have been fighting to secure the future of the Kingfisher Ward at the Dorchester hospital and a protest march in the county town attracted more than 1,000 people.

The protestors will have to wait longer for any decision on the future of the ward as the CCG said more work needs to be done before finalising proposals to take to a formal public consultation.

Local GP and chair of the CCG Dr Forbes Watson said: “We have a clear vision of what we think we need to do to improve healthcare in Dorset, but want to do more detailed thinking, planning, and analysis to help set out clearly to the public how we think we would realise those ambitions.

“New information is coming through that we want to look at closely before finalising our proposals, for example, how Dorset might best respond to national NHS policy.

“We will continue our regular discussion with our health and care partners and to share our thinking with patients and members of the public so that when we do go out to formally consult people will have as much information as possible.

“This is a once in a generation opportunity to re-shape the NHS in Dorset and to improve services for local people – we have to get it right.”

A joint statement from the chief executives of hospitals and health trusts in Dorset said: “As chief executives of the hospitals and community services in Dorset we are all committed to ensuring local people get the highest quality of care and improved access to services.

“We continue to work closely with Dorset CCG on how we can organise services to best address a growing population, changing health needs, workforce, new technologies and the money available.

“The views of the public will be vital and we welcome the public consultation in 2016.”

Naomi Patterson, who is one of the organisers of the protest events, said that she was disappointed that the uncertainty surrounding the Kingfisher Ward would be prolonged for families such as hers that rely on the unit.

She vowed that there would be no let up in the campaign.

Naomi said: “We were looking forward to the summer and showing our feelings and were getting everybody ready and now it’s going to be put off.

“We will keep going.”

The campaigners will be taking part in the main procession at the Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival this Sunday and will also be protesting at County Hall on Monday ahead of a meeting of the Dorset Joint Health Scrutiny Committee at 2pm.