THE 'MANY benefits' of having specialist hospitals in Dorset have been detailed in a hard-hitting report from the county's Clinical Commissioning Group which is under fire for its controversial reorganisation of hospital services.

According to Dorset CCG: "National studies show that better outcomes are achieved when people are treated in specialist centres, with senior specialist staff available on site."

In order to plug a projected £158 million shortfall, the CCG wants to downgrade Poole's A&E and maternity services as well as close five of 13 community hospitals across Dorset – including one in Wareham. They are opposed by the Defend Dorset NHS Group which claims the move will lead to deaths amongst those in the west of the county.

The CCG's report hits back at DDNHS, saying that having specialist roles for hospitals in Poole and Bournemouth will mean reduced waiting times for around 6,000 patients requiring planned care.

It would also mean better care for around 3,500 inpatients who currently have to be transferred between The Royal Bournemouth Hospital and Poole each year in order to access specialist treatment.

Other benefits of the re-organisation include a shorter time to consultant review and treatment for around 135 cardiology patients currently admitted to Poole out of hours each year and around 1,400 stroke patients benefitting from improved consultant, and nursing levels each year.

"Healthcare services in Dorset face significant challenges arising from workforce and financial constraints, increasing quality standards, and the changing health needs of the local population," warned the report.

"In response, Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group – after carrying out a comprehensive, clinically-led Clinical Services Review (CSR) with extensive public consultation – is making significant changes to the way in which acute, GP and community-based healthcare services are provided."

It said that Dorset County Hospital would continue to provide emergency and planned services to meet the needs of people living in the west of the county. It also pointed out that the decisions made in September last year were: "Made on proposals that were developed in conjunction with clinicians from all four NHS partners in Dorset, along with the local authorities, and having considered a huge amount of feedback from local organisations and members of the public.

"It is recognised that not everyone agrees with the decisions. However with the pressures the NHS is currently under and faces in the coming years, doing nothing is not an option, and changes need to be made."