HEALTH professionals have voiced their concerns for local services after the Royal Bournemouth and Poole Hospital merger plan hit problems.

The merger proposal, which has so far cost £6 million was referred to the Competition Commission earlier this year.

The Commission looks set to block the idea because it would limit patient choice.

But the chief executives of the two hospitals say the merger is vital to ensure the viability of local services.

Dr Nigel Watson, who practises in New Milton and is on the GP committee of the British Medical Association, said: “We can’t have a health service that provides individuals with choice and stays within the budget that has been allocated.

“One of the things that will happen if the trusts don’t merge is that services will be cut.

"The hospitals do work very closely together and there are a lot of shared consultants.

“Both hospitals provide excellent services but the current model of care is unsustainable. We need to provide more care in the community.

“As a doctor I would say that competition is about the market economy. Health isn’t a market and I don’t think we’ll raise standards by Poole competing with Bournemouth for patients.”

Andrew Christaki, Royal College of Nursing regional officer for Dorset and Wiltshire said: “This is of great concern to the RCN as staff and patient confidence are directly linked to the quality of patient experience which must remain at the heart of decisions made.”

Mike Cracknell, regional organiser for Unison in Dorset, said: “If the merger doesn’t go ahead, where does that leave Poole Hospital?

"It would either reduce terms and conditions of staff, which would mean losing them to neighbouring trusts, or reduce services.

“The ideology that competition improves standards and provides value for money is flawed.

"It’s about looking at the consequences for staff and the local community.”

Yesterday, NHS England warned that the NHS would not survive unless there are radical changes in the delivery of health care such as hospital closures and centralisation of services.