THE DECISION to reorganise Dorset’s hospital services could be thrown into doubt after the group challenging the controversial proposals won a full judicial review.

Defend Dorset NHS has been told it will be allowed to challenge plans which would see Poole Hospital lose its accident and emergency, maternity and paediatric services to Bournemouth, and spark other changes, including those to acute mental health care.

The news is doubly sweet for the group after it was told in December that it couldn’t have the decision reviewed by the government. It has now hired the same lawyers who helped prevent London’s Lewisham Hospital from closure in 2013 – seen by health campaigners and trade unions everywhere as a major blow against government health cuts.

Debby Monkhouse, who lives in the Purbecks and has been campaigning to get the review, said she was delighted. “Given that it could have been thrown out, it’s amazing, it’s happened more quickly than we had thought,” she said.

The review will be held in London after May 26 and Defend Dorset NHS will be arguing that moving the major emergency services to Bournemouth, closing Poole’s A&E and maternity unit, will result in unsafe travel times.

According to Debby Monkhouse, response times to the moved facilities would result in people from her area: “Being outside the Golden Hour for ambulance response times.”

She said the campaign group would also be challenging the logistics of the closure plans and hoped to have the authorities’ claims about replacement services looked into.

News of a possible review came last month when it was revealed that a Poole hospital patient suffering with a chronic illness had secured legal aid to challenge the merger. She feared it would cost her her life, as she needs extensive medication and regular ambulance visits to Poole from her home in Purbeck.

At the time, RBCH chief executive Tony Spotswood warned that the judicial review could delay the reorganisation or even send NHS planners back to the drawing board, which, he claimed, would “delay the benefits for patients”.