THE decision not to allow a re-examination of the way the decision to downgrade Poole's A&E and its maternity services was made will be the subject of a full hearing at the Court of Appeal.

Following an application by parties opposing the downgrades - part of Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group's proposed merger of Poole and Bournemouth hospitals - Lord Justice Gross ordered a full hearing into a High Court decision not to allow a judicial review of the CCG's controversial proposals.

A judicial review makes no comment on the rights and wrongs of any situation but examines whether the decision in question was made lawfully. However, if the appeal court hearing decides to allow the judicial review, Dorset CCG could be faced with re-running its entire decision-making process.

In his ruling Lord Justice Gross said: "The application gives rise to conflicting considerations. On the one hand there is a real danger of over-judicialising administration, so impeding decision-taking. Moreover the court will not lightly intervene on questions going to the allocation of scarce public sector resources. Still further, and unpalatable though it may be to some, the mode of delivery of public services does need to change from time to time."

However, he stressed that: "The application gives rise to a question mark as to whether there exists an actionable gulf between the CCG's paper 'vision' and the reality of proposed delivery - a delivery which will make significant changes to the configuration of health services in Dorset."

Judge Gross's ruling has been welcomed by Defend Dorset NHS, one of the most prominent groups campaigning to prevent the department downgrades.

Group member Debby Monkhouse said: "The Judge who made the Order was in two minds: on the one hand he thought the Judiciary should not interfere too much in the the decisions of cash strapped public sector bodies. On the other hand he thought there might be an 'actionable gulf' between what the CCG's paper vision and the reality of the proposed delivery'."

She said DDNHS were interested to note that 'none of the reasons on the CCG side relate to the strength of their case'.

"They are all about the use of Judge's power regarding public sector decisions," she said. "We, the public, rely on the Judiciary to protect us against decisions that will not only affect access to NHS services, which will be fewer and further away, but that will increase Dorset fatalities and lives lived in disability."

The hearing date has yet to be set.