A CAMPAIGN group fighting Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group’s (CCG) proposed reforms to NHS services in Dorset has lost its legal battle.

A judicial review into the healthcare shake-up has concluded and all claims brought by Swanage resident Anna Hinsull have been dismissed.

In a case presented to the High Court in London in July, campaign group Defend Dorset NHS alleged the process by which the decision to reorganise services was made was not correctly adhered to.

Tim Goodson, chief officer of Dorset CCG, said the group hoped the High Court’s decision would “reassure local people that the CCG has acted properly and in the interests of healthcare services in Dorset”.

“The court has confirmed that Dorset CCG has taken into consideration all the matters we were required to consider during the Clinical Services Review (CSR) and consultation processes,” he said.

“The CSR and consultation established that we need to change the way local services are delivered in order to secure better outcomes for patients and affordable healthcare for now and the future.”

He added the judicial review was a “right and proper process” but had involved “considerable cost” to the NHS.

“The High Court decision will now allow the planned improvements to health and care services in Dorset to be implemented without unnecessary delay or additional legal costs.

“We will continue to work closely with our partner NHS and local authority organisations to ensure that the improvements bring about patient benefits and save more lives.”

Under Dorset CCG’s plans, five of 13 community hospitals across Dorset – including one in Wareham and in St Leonard’s – will close, as well as Poole’s Accident and Emergency department.

The reorganisation is aimed at avoiding a projected funding shortfall, estimated to be at least £158m a year by 2021.

Defend Dorset NHS claimed the plans will leave tens of thousands of Dorset residents and over a million visitors without access to A&E and maternity services within the ‘golden hour’, and will lead to the lives of many patients being put unnecessarily at risk.

Campaigner Debby Monkhouse said the group was "shocked" by the decision.

"We were at the hearing and we witnessed the CCG being unable to respond to the genuine concerns that we raised. Also the judge indicated at the end that a mixed judgement was likely and asked the CCG to consider remedies."

The group now has 21 days in which to launch an appeal, which they are considering.

"We will be speaking to our QC on Friday. We also need to consider the health of the claimant, which is significantly worse than it was when we started this process last autumn," Ms Monkhouse said.

She added: "Judicial review is not the only way to challenge these dangerous plans. We need health scrutiny councillors to now stand up for residents' lives and meet their statutory duty to refer plans that do not improve services for residents."

Dorset CCG says the reorganisation will ultimately save lives, and will see a £147m investment in acute hospital services.

Mr Goodson added: “We will keep local people fully informed about the future shape of services and continue to work with them to develop safe, high quality services for present and future generations.”

Martyn Webster, manager of independent watchdog Healthwatch Dorset, said there would be "winners and losers" following the changes to health services in Dorset.

"The outcome of the judicial review means that the process NHS Dorset followed has been found to satisfy the legalities. But it does not mean the concerns some local people have about changes to our health services are not valid, nor does it mean those concerns are going to go away. 

"Some people will find that their services improve and they'll get better access to better care. But the concerns that people have centre round the potential losers - people who may find that community beds in their own area have gone and/or they're having to travel further to get the acute hospital services they need - and the potential for those longer journeys to put them at more risk than they were before.

"It doesn't matter how good a service is if you can't get to it, or can't get to it in time."

He added: "The outcome of the judicial review is not a green light for the NHS to forge ahead with changes regardless of people's valid concerns. In fact, they will need to show even more than ever that they are listening to people's concerns, taking them seriously and involving local people in the design of future services."