COUNCILLORS have scrutinised findings regarding the level of support for a major shake-up of health services in Dorset.

The findings of the NHS Dorset CCG’s Clinical Services Review consultation were revealed in June, but the figures were put to the Joint Health Scrutiny Committee, made up of Dorset county councillors, as well as councillors from Poole, Bournemouth, Hampshire and Somerset.

The consultation findings are to inform Dorset CCG in its plans to make changes to community services, to acute hospital care and to consultant-led maternity care and inpatient paediatrics.

The changes include controversial plans to replace community hospitals with community ‘hubs,’ reducing the number of health sites with beds in Dorset from 13 to seven..

The findings were based on an open questionnaire, with 18,700 responses from the public, organisations and NHS employees, and a residents survey.

Focus groups, drop-in sessions, written submissions and petitions were also included in the findings.

Dale Hall, founder of Opinion Research Services (ORS) which carried out the consultation, said of open questionnaires in general that “they can look more critical than in reality” because those who are unhappy with the plans are more likely to respond to them. He said: “We should not be expecting a consensus. We should never be expecting a consensus on these areas.”

Despite this he believed that “these results, overall, are extremely positive.”

However, Borough of Poole Cllr Ann Stribley expressed concerns that “the consultation was quite leading” due to how some of the questions were laid out.

Mr Hall said: “I certainly do not think people were manipulated to take particular views. We made considerable efforts to make sure people understood what the issues were.”

County Cllr Ros Kayes, criticised the way in which the residents survey was carried out, based on talks she had had with people who had taken part in it.

She said: “People who have contacted me did not have sight of the whole consultation document when they answered them on the phone.

“That gives me very big concerns about the accuracy of the survey. It undermines the nature of the results in my opinion.”

Mr Hall conceded that the method of the over-the-phone survey was not “perfect,” but added that “it was probably the most practicable and feasible way” of carrying it out.