A PARTNERSHIP of healthcare, volunteer and council groups heard local concerns at a public meeting on Portland.

In February 2023, Portland’s community joined Dorset’s Integrated Care Partnership (ICP) - comprised of the NHS, Dorset Council, community groups and the voluntary sector to address the isle’s significant health and care challenges.

The ICP said at the time it was committed to working towards improving services for locals.

More than one year on the ICP held another meeting to update the community and address concerns.
Dorset Echo:

Held at the Easton Methodist Church Hall, more than 80 members of the public attended.

Emphasised throughout the meeting were the efforts by the groups to work together to address the community’s needs.

One of the largest issues has been transport on and off the island, particularly for specialist care not possible on Portland. Volunteer groups have even sometimes been needed to step in and bridge the gap.

Addressing transport, NHS Dorset Chief Medical Officer Dr Paul Johnson said: "We would love to say we got transport done. It is a big challenge but it is something we are working on. It is a struggle to get anywhere in the county given the rurality."

Also of concern to residents was Portland Community Hospital, which is often regarded as underutilised and diminished.

Read more: Growing anger over cuts at Portland Hospital

Laura Godfrey, a GP working with practices across Dorset, spoke about the Minor Injuries Unit at Portland Hospital. She said: "Support is needed and should be available but when we looked at the data it was much wider. It was about the care of elderly people, mental health, social isolation, and support for young families. A Minor Injuries Unit is not going to solve all these issues.

"We have been working together and the key thing is to break down these walls between services. So we can provide you with the right care and support rather than working in a little bubble. Getting this right will take time.

"We don't get to people early enough and we don't identify them early enough to reduce their need for healthcare, and that is vital."

Dr Godfrey added that there are discussions around opening a community pharmacy following the closure of the Fortuneswell Boots.

Furthermore, staffing concerns are being addressed by advertising alternative routes to entering the NHS and social care, such as apprenticeships, and training nurse practitioners from scratch.

Dorset Echo: Representatives of various organisations in the ICP, including ICA's Kim Watson (second from left) and Dr Paul Johnson (right)Representatives of various organisations in the ICP, including ICA's Kim Watson (second from left) and Dr Paul Johnson (right) (Image: Cristiano Magaglio)

Read more: Huge turnout for meeting on future of Portland Hospital

Emma, a GP for Royal Manor Healthcare, spoke about the new phone lines aimed at helping people get appointments and said: "Services we were sharing with Weymouth we are beginning to get our own here on the island."

Other members of the public expressed concern about dentistry and optometry, noting poor and reduced service.

Read more: Crisis as concern over access to NHS dentists in Dorset

Rebecca Watson, Family Hub Programme Lead, gave an update on the Family Hub planned for Portland. Currently, the council is talking to the NHS about feasibly using space at the Portland Hospital.

Anyone with questions for the partnership are asked to contact the Island Community Action at office@islandcommunityaction.org.uk or call 01305 823789.