A hospital is looking to reduce waiting times with a £1.4m ward refurbishment scheme.

Ridgeway Ward at Dorset County Hospital in Dorchester is to be refurbished into a 24-bedded ward for orthopaedic elective surgery patients.

The ward is being transformed into a dedicated space for people having elective orthopaedic surgery as part of a drive to reduce waiting times.

While the work is being carried out, patients who would normally treated on Ridgeway Ward are being cared for in the Portesham Unit, the new modular building in front of the North Wing at the hospital.

Building contractors will start working on the site from Monday, November 20 with the work set to finish in May 2024. The compound for the site is based between the entrances to North Wing 1 and South Wing 1, and the ambulance drop-off points.

The ambulance drop-offs and dedicated chemotherapy spaces will be unaffected, and pedestrians will still have access to walk between the entrances, but the area will be closed to all other vehicles during the work.

Anyone dropping off or collecting a patient or visitor can park in spaces nearby next to the Portesham Unit in front of North Wing Entrance 2. Disabled parking bays will also be available by the Portesham Unit and outside hospital wing entrances, including two rows for Blue Badge holders by the pencils sculpture near East Wing.

The £1.4m project is funded by NHS England.

It is the second phase of a £14m project including the ongoing work at South Walks House in Dorchester to create a permanent Outpatient Assessment Centre - freeing up clinical space on the main hospital site offering outpatient clinics, diagnostics and day case procedures.

This refurbishment will help the Dorset County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust reduce waiting times for elective orthopaedic surgery and improve patient outcomes.

Anita Thomas, chief operating officer at the hospital, said: “We are committed to reducing waiting times for patients and are working hard to find ways to do this so we can treat those waiting for surgery more quickly.

“By turning Ridgeway Ward into a dedicated space for elective orthopaedic surgery patients, we will not only reduce waiting times but also the amount of time that people need to stay in hospital, which will help support their recovery.

“The work with our partners to create an Outpatient Assessment Centre has already proved extremely successful, with clinics, non-surgical interventions and additional support to help people stay healthy while awaiting surgery.

"Once the work at South Walks House is complete, this will also increase the number of services available on that site, helping us to reduce waiting times even further,” she added.

Portland town councillor Sandy West said that she had to use the hospital’s services since problems arose when she was around 14, finding it hard to move around parts of the island.

She suffers from scoliosis and went for a knee replacement a few years ago and said the staff at the hospital were magnificent.

She said: “Any improvements into the system will be amazing, especially where you’re guaranteed a dedicated, specialised level of service.

The councillor went on to describe the decision as a ‘real step forward,’ adding: “Thousands of people will be over the moon for a dedicated department."