A DECISION to approve the shake-up of hospital services in Dorset has been labelled “politically motivated” by a campaign group opposed to the proposals.

Defend Dorset NHS has consistently voiced objections to the plans, which will close the A&E unit at Poole Hospital.

Royal Bournemouth Hospital (RBH) will become the major emergency care site for the region once development work is completed.

The shake-up cleared one of the final hurdles after it was announced that the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP) ruled in favour of the changes that have been led by NHS Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG). The Court of Appeal recently upheld a decision by the High Court to give support to the plans.

Health secretary Matt Hancock accepted the advice from the panel to allow the plan to go ahead.

Dorset County Hospital will continue to be an emergency and planned hospital and the CCG says it is committed to working with DCH to ensure that it has the right level of investment now and in the future to continue to provide high quality services. DCH has plans to expand its Emergency Department and Intensive Care Unit as well as establish an Integrated Care Hub.

Reacting to the announcement, Debby Monkhouse, of Defend Dorset NHS, said: “Boris Johnson claims we will have 40 new hospitals – so why are these life saving departments being closed at Poole?

"It is not rocket science that longer journeys for critically ill people will lead to deaths. The Court of Appeal accepted that the plans could lead to up to 400 extra deaths of ambulance patients each year but were not considering the merits of the plans

"The figure of 400 is an underestimate as it only relates to ambulance patients."

She said that there is insufficient funding and staff for services closer to home, adding: "The downgrading of Poole A&E and closure of Poole maternity and paediatrics is politically motivated.

"The Conservative government does not believe in the NHS, and has been tendering out services to the private sector for years."

Under the proposals Poole will become the area's planned care hospital, with Bournemouth acting as the major emergency care site.

A series of changes to hospital services are expected, with up to six years of work required for them to come into full effect.

Dorset CCG said the benefits include:

n £147 million investment in acute hospital services, including a new Emergency Department and Critical Care Unit at Royal Bournemouth Hospital;

n Redevelopment and investment in Poole Hospital to create a new Urgent Treatment Centre and 14 theatres which will help reduce waiting times and prevent cancelled operations for patients requiring planned care

n A new purpose built women’s and children’s unit on the eastern side of Dorset, built to modern healthcare standards;

n More services provided closer to people’s homes;

n New ways of working for NHS staff that will make best use of their skills and provide better care for local people;

n Excellent networks of clinical services for stroke, cardiac and cancer services ensuring that everyone gets the same level of care across the county.

Tim Goodson, chief officer of Dorset CCG, said “We are very pleased that we are now able to move forward in the process of securing a significant investment of £147m into local healthcare and proceed with changes that will make a real difference to local people.

“The plans have passed each stage of independent scrutiny because we have followed the correct process."