A PETITION to save A&E and the maternity unit at Poole Hospital has gathered more than 20,000 signatures.

Poole resident Sean Perrin started the online petition in a bid to stop changes that would see units closing at Poole Hospital and relocating to Royal Bournemouth Hospital in a major shake-up of health services in Dorset.

Health bosses from NHS Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) propose to make Royal Bournemouth Hospital the county’s major emergency hospital, leaving Poole Hospital for planned care with an urgent care centre as part of its Clinical Services Review.

The controversial plans which aim to plug a potential funding gap of £158m a year by 2020 are currently out for public consultation until the end of February.

Mr Perrin said: “Our A&E and maternity units at Poole Hospital are essential for local people.

“The road networks between Poole and Bournemouth are dismal and travel times are very unpredictable, particularly during the summer season. This means that the proposal for closure of these essential departments is extremely worrying. Longer journey times can put lives at risk.

“A&E and maternity units are vital services for patients – why should people in Poole be put at risk by poorly thought through and misguided cost-cutting like this?”

One resident, who signed the petition, said: “In July 2016 these guys saved my granddaughter’s life. Look at a map and see how far she would have had to travel if Poole were shut.”

Another said: “I live in Wareham. We can get to Poole Hospital in 15 minutes, Dorchester half an hour (if I’m lucky) Bournemouth 45 minutes. Enough said.”

A series of drop-in events hosted by Dorset CCG are taking place across the county where the public are invited to discuss the plans.

Anyone is welcome to the events at Emmanuel Baptist Church, Swanage, on January 17 from 2-8pm and at St Mary’s Longfleet Church Centre, Poole, on January 19 from 2-8pm.

The CCG, said making Bournemouth the emergency centre would be more than £40m cheaper than the alternative option of Poole, which had also been in the running to be named the preferred A&E site.

A spokesman said any feedback received during the consultation period that relates to the proposals will be sent to the independent organisation ORS for analysis.

For information go to csr.dorsetsvision.nhs.uk