A POOLE Hospital patient is behind the legal challenge which could derail a county-wide shake-up of health services.

The woman, aged in her 30s, who does not wish to be identified at present, suffers from a serious chronic illness which requires extensive medication and causes her to need regular ambulance visits to the trust from her home in Purbeck.

And she fears the Clinical Services Review (CSR) proposed by NHS Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which would see the emergency department at Poole closed forcing ambulances to take her to the Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospitals (RBCH), could cost her her life.

She has secured legal aid for her High Court challenge to the CCG, which was reported in yesterday’s Daily Echo.

This will cover half the costs should the action proceed. A campaign group called Defend Dorset NHS has already crowdfunded more than £5,000 to pay for an initial ‘merits hearing’, where the strength of the case will be determined by a judge.

RBCH chief executive Tony Spotswood has contacted the trust’s governors warning that the judicial review could delay CSR or even send NHS planners back to the drawing board, which would “delay the benefits for patients”.

Debby Monkhouse of Defend Dorset NHS said the total costs could be around £30k in total, with half raised in the community.

“We are not expecting to have much trouble having raised so much in such a short time,” she said.

“The patient is challenging a number of things.

“Unsafe travel times, according to the South Western Ambulance Service’s own data. People won’t be able to access either Bournemouth or Dorset County A&Es within the recommended 30 to 45 minutes travel time.

“The second theme is beds. The CCG has a duty to replace any beds they close. They plan to cut 245 beds overall across the three hospitals. And 136 beds are going from community hospitals. They are saying they consulted on this before the legal duty was introduced."

She claimed: “There are also some aspects of the consultation which were so misleading as to be unlawful. It promised a 24/7 consultant-led service at RBCH, but they are now saying that is an ‘aspiration’. That is now how it was presented.”

Other groups campaigning against the NHS proposals include Keep Our NHS Public Dorset, Keep Kingfisher and Maternity at Dorset County Hospital a 24/7 Consultant Led Unit, and Poole and Swanage Labour parties.

Under the CSR plan, RBCH would become the ‘major emergency centre’ for the east of the county and western Hampshire, while Poole would become a ‘planned care centre’.

The approval of the scheme has also resurrected plans to merge the two trusts bringing them under a single management structure.

The CCG says its plans will reduce costs, improve efficiency and lead to a better service for patients across the county.

Ms Monkhouse said campaigners fear the NHS plans to close Poole Hospital entirely.

“They are planning to close 407 of Poole’s 654 beds, shutting the A&E and maternity, and adding new beds at Dorset and Bournemouth,” she said.

“Basically they are totally running down Poole.

“These plans might be good for people living in Bournemouth, but not for anyone in the Dorset county area.”

The St Mary’s Maternity Hospital site has appeared in Borough of Poole planning documents as “allocated for residential development”.

Chris Bradey, chairman of Swanage Labour Party, praised the Poole Hospital Patient behind the plans.

“She is showing tremendous courage just living with her debilitating condition,” he said. “But she is putting herself in the spotlight and up against the CCG. It is David versus Goliath.”

Mr Bradey, who was himself successfully treated for cancer at Poole Hospital, added: “This has united people of all political persuasions from across the county. We have had a lot of off-the-record donations from concerned Tories.”

Human rights law firm Leigh Day, which specialises in medical negligence, has been appointed to present the challenge.

The firm is celebrated for winning a legal case in 2013 on behalf of Save Lewisham Hospital, where it was ruled that Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt did not have the power to cut back emergency and maternity units at the south London trust.

Dorset CCG has issued only a brief response to the submission. A spokesman said: “We are aware of the application for a judicial review and will be responding through the appropriate channels.”

Mr Spotswood (right) warned, in his message to RBCH governors, that the review “at worst, could require the CCG to consider its proposals again”, and would otherwise “slow the work to introduce these changes and delay the benefits for patients”.