THE health secretary’s decision to approve the shake-up of hospital services in Dorset has been labelled “politically motivated” by a campaign group opposed to the proposals.

Defend Dorset NHS has consistently voiced objections to the plans, which will close the A&E unit at Poole Hospital.

Royal Bournemouth Hospital (RBH) is now set to serve as the major emergency care site for the region once development work is completed.

The group’s fight included a legal challenge in the High Court but their efforts failed to block the major move.

Reacting to the green light from health secretary Matt Hancock, Debby Monkhouse, of Defend Dorset NHS, said: “Boris Johnson claims we will have 40 new hospitals – so why are these life saving departments being closed at Poole?

"It is not rocket science that longer journeys for critically ill people will lead to deaths. The Court of Appeal accepted that the plans could lead to up to 400 extra deaths of ambulance patients each year but were not considering the merits of the plans

"The figure of 400 is an underestimate as it only relates to ambulance patients, and the vast majority of maternity and child emergencies do not attend A&E by ambulance."

She said that there is insufficient funding and staff for services closer to home.

"Then there's the issue of capacity - RBH cannot cope now – recent stats show it missed it’s A&E waiting target 20 per cent of the time in December," she added.

"When trauma A&E, maternity and children's care are added to RBH’s A&E, not only will this single A&E have to serve the whole conurbation catchment area, it will also have to serve the population of West Hampshire, who currently access emergency care outside Dorset.

"We do not have enough NHS beds now and the plans mean the closure of 245 more Dorset acute beds. We are also losing community hospitals and beds in six of 13 locations across the county."

Ms Monkhouse claimed residents in Dorset had been let down by the county's MPs, those running the health care in the region, NHS England and the Independent Review Panel, who recommended going ahead with the service changes.

She added: "The downgrading of Poole A&E and closure of Poole maternity and paediatrics is politically motivated.

"The Conservative government does not believe in the NHS, and has been tendering out services to the private sector for years. The NHS has been run down by underfunding for nine years, deterring people from entering by ending training bursaries and increasing tuition fees, and encouraging people to leave by making terms and conditions worse."