Protesters are continuing to fight for a reprieve for threatened community hospitals, with a demonstration planned outside a meeting of Dorset County Council's Health Scrutiny Committee today.

The biggest healthcare shake-up in a generation was announced by Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group last autumn, including proposals to close, convert or reduce services at community hospitals in Weymouth, on Portland and across Purbeck. A total of 245 acute care beds are set to be lost.

Demonstrators are to convene outside the meeting's venue, County Hall in Dorchester, from 9.30 am today, Thursday, and will urge county councillors to scrap the planned reorganisation, which will also see Poole Hospital lose its A&E department.

"Some residents feel that councillors have not listened to the public," said organiser Claudia Sorin. "And we feel that people in Purbeck, especially, are really going to be in trouble.

"The population [of Dorset] is increasing, and [the UK] already has the fewest beds per 1000 people in Europe."

She added that while the CCG had proposed that patients be treated in their homes in place of the community hospitals, campaigners had seen no evidence that this had been properly planned.

Ms Sorin, a teaching assistant from Dorchester, represents the Dorset Health Campaign; other opposition groups supporting the demonstration include the Poole-based Defend Dorset NHS and Keep Our NHS Public.

Under the plans, Portland Hospital is targeted for closure, with a bedless 'community hub' to be opened elsewhere on the isle; Wareham Hospital would also become a community hub, while Swanage Hospital would see a reduction in beds..

The Linden mental health unit at Weymouth's Westhaven Hospital would also close, with extra beds instead opened at the Forston Clinic in Charlton Down and at St Ann's psychiatric hospital in Poole.

Dorset County Hospital in Dorchester, however, is to keep its maternity and paediatrics units, which had been mooted for closure; the revised recommendation followed a major public campaign backed by the Echo to save the hospital's Kingfisher Ward.

Giovanna Lewis, a borough council candidate from Portland, is planning to speak at Thursday's meeting. "It's not too late to state the case for Portland," Ms Lewis told the Echo. "Nothing has been finalised."

She added that there was a need for greater publicity of the proposed closure of Portland Hospital. "I've been surprised at the number of people who didn't know about the plan," she said.

Portland Hospital, a former naval hospital offering end-of-life care, is vital for easing pressure on beds at DCH, Ms Lewis said, adding that it would be very difficult for many of the hospital's current patients to travel further for their care. "You have to take two buses to get to Westhaven," she noted. "It is really quite limiting."

A spokesman for Dorset CCG said: “These decisions will see specialist roles for both Poole Hospital and Royal Bournemouth Hospital, along with significant investment in maternity services along with acute and community care and improved services for people experiencing mental health crisis.

"Local partners are now working closely together to implement these plans."