PARENTS have been left ‘shocked’ at plans to downgrade maternity services and the special care baby unit – even though a public consultation over changes has not yet begun.

Campaign group Save SCBU, Kingfisher and Maternity at Dorset County Hospital have slammed the decision claiming patients will be ‘put at risk’.

A statement from the campaign revealed three maternity rooms are being transformed into a midwife led unit and babies born under 32 weeks and sick babies will be sent to Poole Hospital.

The plans will take effect within a matter of weeks.

The CCG said the changes are coming about because some recommendations made earlier this year need to be put into place ‘immediately’.

A spokesman added that plans to integrate some services with Yeovil Hospital are also progressing ‘at pace’.

Bridport mum Becky Francis gave birth to her son Orran Mitchison at 26 weeks in January of last year in Southampton, before being transferred to SCBU.

She said: “I am really upset that more families will have to go through the trauma of hospital transfers with their fragile child. Orran was three weeks old and had gained strength since his birth and the travel still affected him. I hate to think how this will affect a newborn premature baby whose life is already hanging in the balance.

“I know first hand the experience of having a child in a hospital far from home and it is life changing.

The margin between the life and death of a premature baby is so slim it shouldn’t be risked with a needless journey by road.”

Dorchester mum, Naomi Patterson, from the campaign group, expressed her concern. She said: “With sick and very small babies, bonding is crucial and this is going to be more difficult for families if they have to travel very long distances. Travel times and distance are a major factor when considering where to have maternity and paediatric services but Dorset CCG does not appear to have taken this into account when making these plans. Patients will suffer because of this.”

An NHS Dorset CCG spokesman said: “In April 2016 the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health made a number of recommendations about current services in Dorset.

“Some recommendations from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health required immediate action and one of those was to re-designate the Local Neonatal Unit at Dorset County Hospital, converting it to a Special Care Unit for infants born after 32 weeks. We are working in partnership with Specialist Commissioners and clinicians from Dorset County Hospital, Poole Hospital and South Western Ambulance Service to address the immediate actions.

“This means the majority of babies needing special care would remain in Dorset County Hospital.

A small number of babies born more than eight weeks early will routinely receive early care in a unit elsewhere with the expertise.

This will affect less than one per cent of women delivering their babies at Dorset County Hospital.

“Another immediate recommendation was to consider integrating maternity and paediatric services at Dorset County Hospital and Yeovil Hospital. The discussions between the two trusts are progressing at pace.

“We hope to announce a start date for the CSR public consultation soon. Details of the consultation will be publicised widely once we are able to confirm the details.”