CHRISTCHURCH MP Chris Chope has questioned the government over the proposed closure of a community hospital.

Speaking in the House of Commons recently, he asked Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health Steve Brine: “If the government’s plan is to reduce the pressures on adult social care, will my hon. Friend explain why the Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is proposing to close down the St Leonard’s community hospital, which provides really good services at the moment and is approved of by the community?”

Mr Brine replied: “No, I cannot go into the detail of why that is, as I suspect my right hon. Friend realises. There will be a one-NHS STP process in his area, and it will have to come up with proposals that meet the five criteria for any reconfiguration.”

Speaking to the Daily Echo following the debate, Mr Chope said he thought the response was “unhelpful”.

He added Dorset CCG’s plans to shut St Leonards were “ridiculous”.

“It’s a good quality hospital and its staff have won all sorts of awards for excellence,” he continued.

“I don’t think anybody says the answer to the health service is fewer beds, but that’s what these transformation plans entail. People are saying there will be more beds in Wimborne, but most people using St Leonards live close by so it’s well located for them.

"There's a lot of concern over what's being proposed, and there's no clear thinking about it."

If the plans go ahead, St Leonards, Alderney, and Westhaven face closure as services move to hubs.

Community hubs with beds would be located at the major planned hospital at Poole, Wimborne, Bridport, Blandford, Sherborne, Swanage and Weymouth.

A petition ‘Save St Leonards Hospital’ which received 6,326 signatures read: “St Leonards is used to rehabilitate patients who are not ready to return home. A very busy physiotherapy and out patients department also provides many services. Without this hospital you will lose these precious services and will have to be treated at home or in a home.”

Concerns included that the hospital is a well-used and much needed facility especially by elderly people, it offers a range of services and many would struggle to travel elsewhere, the travel times to Wimborne are longer than suggested and there would be additional pressure on acute and other hospitals if it was closed.

The CCG will review a report carefully before decisions are made in September ‘at the earliest.’