NHS bosses faced a grilling as residents demanded answers over the future of Portland Hospital during a packed community meeting.

More than 150 people crammed into Easton Methodist Church hall to quiz representatives from Dorset HealthCare and NHS Dorset – who gave assurances the hospital will NOT be closed down – but sidestepped questions over the future of its minor injuries unit and X-ray facility, which have been closed since January 2022.

Assurances were given that representatives will work with community groups in a bid to improve health outcomes for residents on Portland – where there is significant social deprivation and lower life expectancy compared to other parts of Dorset.

Island Community Action praised the panel for facing difficult questions and said positive steps have been made as a result of the meeting.

Chief medical officer for NHS Dorset, Paul Johnson, promised to continue working with the community over the coming 12 months and return for another public meeting in 2024 to ensure progress has been made.

Emotions ran high as attendees heard how money is being invested into hospitals elsewhere in Dorset – including at Wimborne Hospital, which is to benefit from a revamped minor injuries unit (MIU) and X-ray facility.

As reported, in January 2022 Portland’s MIU temporarily closed amid staff absences during the winter Covid peak, and is the only MIU in Dorset to remain shut following the pandemic.

Attendees at Wednesday’s meeting were told this is due to ongoing recruitment issues, with “difficult choices” needing to be made.

Minutes from Dorset HealthCare meetings reveal that nurses are being recruited from the Philippines for MIUs elsewhere in Dorset, and that at the time of MIU closures, staff were redeployed to Wimborne and Sherborne MIUs.

There are currently no roles at Portland Hospital advertised on Dorset HealthCare's website.

Members of the public also raised concerns that the island’s population of around 13,558 people is served by one GP surgery and two pharmacies, making it difficult to access appointments and medication.

Dorset Echo:

Determined to remain upbeat, CEO of Island Community Action, Kim Wilcocks, said it is to the credit of NHS Dorset and Dorset HealthCare that they were willing to listen to concerns - but that the island “deserves better.”

“We feel it is vital that we take up the panel’s offer to work with them in order to support the positive changes needed,” she said.

“Like many other organisations on the island, we are definitely feeling the impact of cuts and challenges, with growing demands on our services.

“We understand that difficult decisions have to be made - however, what's not so clear is why Portland is so frequently at the sharp end of these decisions. We deserve better and look forward to seeing how the next 12 months unfold."

Chief medical officer for NHS Dorset, Paul Johnson praised the community for being "passionate" and gave assurances that the newly created organisation would do everything in its powers to support Portland residents.