THE Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) says it welcomes the review into its plans to restructure NHS services in the county.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock ordered an investigation by the government-appointed Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP) earlier this week.

Under the Dorset CCG Clinical Services Review, which was initiated to save a projected funding shortfall – estimated to be £158m a year by 2021 – Poole Hospital's A&E will close, with an expanded emergency department at the Royal Bournemouth Hospital.

Meanwhile, the Royal Bournemouth Hospital's accident and emergency department will be extended.

Dorset CCG said: "We have been notified that the Secretary of State has asked the IRP to carry out an initial assessment and welcome the opportunity for further independent scrutiny of the changes to healthcare services in Dorset.

"We will be working with NHS England and NHS Improvement to ensure that the IRP has all the information and supporting evidence it requires to assist its assessment.

"We do not wish to speculate further before the IRP has completed its assessment."

Mr Hancock ordered the review into 'specific aspects' of the proposals, after being contacted by Dorset County Council in November 2018, who expressed safety concerns relating to the proposals.

These concerns were later backed by the Borough of Poole.

Debby Monkhouse, a leading campaigner from Defend Dorset NHS, also welcomed the news.

She told the Echo: "When Dorset County Council sent their referral they said that the travel times by the South West Ambulance Services NHS Foundation Trust had not been satisfactorily scrutinised, and that the evidence needed further investigation to the current claim that these travel times would not cause loss of life."

A Court of Appeal hearing, supported by the campaign group, is due to be heard on July 24.

The judicial review will decide on the legality of services review.