OVER the past few weeks, I have read many comments relating to the changes to health services that are being planned in Dorset. I am concerned that people are being made to feel anxious, when they do not need to be so. Whilst these plans will involve significant change, they were developed by local clinicians working together, and they are all about making things better for patients - not worse.

The present arrangements are not sustainable, and trying to keep things as they are can only result in more pressure on services, which over time, would mean a deterioration in the quality of care.

Clinicians, staff and members of the public working together have developed a good plan for Dorset – one that will enable local NHS organisations to use their resources better, to improve outcomes for patients.

It is wrong to say that people will die if we implement these changes. Under the new plans, everyone in Dorset will be able to access emergency care, if necessary, in a timely way. The ambulance service is a key supporter of these changes, knowing that they can improve their performance and respond to calls more speedily, once services are reorganised in this way.

As a local resident myself – one who knows the important role that Poole Hospital has played for so many years and whose children were born on the St Mary’s site – I too could concentrate on the loss associated with this change. Instead, I am looking forward to all the new developments planned for the future, that will enable us to provide improved services through better staffing and a much improved physical environment across the two sites.

Local people already use both the Royal Bournemouth Hospital and Poole Hospital, as each site currently provides a different range of services. In future, people will continue to use both sites – albeit for different things. Whilst a number of Poole Hospital services will move over time to the Royal Bournemouth site, it will be broadly the same high calibre teams delivering these services, in a more modern setting.

On the Poole Hospital site, we are looking forward to expanding our Theatres complex (increasing from 11 main theatres up to 17) as we become the major planned care hospital for the area, treating thousands of patients each week. We will play a vital role meeting the needs of the 53,000 people expected to attend the new Urgent Treatment Centre, which will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Poole Hospital will be different in future, with fewer inpatient beds and no major emergency activity; however, it will continue to be an extremely busy site, providing a wide range of day case treatments, outpatient treatments, diagnostic services, therapy and rehabilitation services, in the way that it does now. This will be in an improved environment, as we develop the site in a way that allows us to see our ambitions for our patients turned into a reality.

Whenever I speak directly to people about the reality of the changes and describe how services will continue to complement each other in the future, they are always much less fearful. Most importantly, when we take time together to reflect on the challenges of maintaining services as they are, people can see the very real benefits associated with these changes.

DEBBIE FLEMING, chief executive, Poole Hospital