THE boss of Poole Hospital has conceded health chiefs must now work together to ‘swiftly get on’ with radical plans to shake-up Dorset’s NHS services.

Poole’s chief executive Debbie Fleming spoke out on what was branded ‘a watershed moment’ on a ‘ very important day for the history of the NHS in Dorset.’

NHS Dorset CCG governing body unanimously agreed on controversial Clinical Services Review proposals to plug a projected £158m shortfall by 2021, which will see Poole Hospital lose its A&E, maternity and paediatrics units.

Royal Bournemouth Hospital will become the major emergency hub for the east of the county, leaving Poole Hospital for planned care with a 24/7 urgent care centre.

The news came despite angry protesters turning out to chant ‘Save Our NHS’ as a voice for the 75,570 concerned residents who signed petitions against the plans.

Commissioners say the shake-up proposals, which were launched in 2014 and are predicted to save 60 lives a year, focus on providing care closer to home to avoid unnecessary A&E attendances as well as joining up services to provide better care around the clock amid workforce shortages and growing demand.

Speaking at the special meeting at the Dorford Centre in Dorchester where 150 people packed in to hear the decision, Debbie Fleming said: “None of the hospitals are sustainable as we are so we cannot stay as we are, things will go downhill unless we work together going forward.

“We were very clear we preferred Option A but also that either option would work. Such a lot of work has been done together over the last few years and the capital investment is so exciting for all of us to secure the future of the sites and services.

“My priority is to focus with staff on the positive benefits of these proposals and there are many of them. For me, I’m a resident and I’m not frightened or anxious about these proposals because I think emergency and urgent care will be more robust in the future through the major emergency facility supported by the 24/7 urgent care centre at Poole.

“It will all be okay but it is going to be very different. The priority now is to swiftly get on with it to work on the detail for the benefit of patients.”

Under the plans, St Leonards Community Hospital will close and other community hospitals will lose beds, including Wareham Hospital.

The chief executives from the county’s three acute hospitals, Dorset HealthCare and South Western Ambulance Service all attended to speak in favour of the proposals.

Questions addressed concerns such as travel times, resources and funding.

Dr Forbes Watson, chair of NHS Dorset CCG, said commissioners have secured £147m in national funding to realise the proposals and invest into both acute hospitals. He said: “Today is a very important day for the history of the NHS in Dorset. It is a real watershed moment.

“We see this as the end of the beginning not the beginning of the end and we will continue with the same enthusiasm to work to provide the best care to patients.”

Chief officer Tim Goodson added: “The fact all recommendations were supported unanimously brings a level of certainty and now we can focus on how we are going to implement it to deliver some of the benefits we have been talking about.”

Opponents said the shake-up plans are disguised cuts to services. Damien Stone, of Keep Our NHS Public, said: “I think this is going to be a disaster. If you close hospitals, cut beds and make people travel further, it will jeopardise patient care not improve it.”

Mental health shake-up plans to start 'immediately'

A SHAKE-UP to tackle the mental health crisis in the county will begin ‘immediately’ after plans were unanimously agreed.

A Mental Health Acute Care Pathway was also underway after experts said service users are ‘not having their needs met’ due to a rise in demand, too few beds and a workforce crisis.

This is despite Dorset having higher than average rates of serious mental illness.

Under proposals, the Linden Unit, a 15-bed inpatient unit at Westhaven Hospital in Weymouth, will close.

However the number of beds will be increased at St Ann’s Hospital in Poole by 27.

Four extra beds will go to Forston Clinic, near Dorchester.

Two ‘retreats’ will be created, in both Bournemouth and Dorchester, where people can self-refer as an alternative to A&E and police custody.

Meanwhile, it was decided that ‘community front rooms’ for support in cafes, day centres, libraries or supported housing will be commissioned in Swanage, Bridport and Sturminster Newton.

Seven ‘recovery beds’ currently in the west of the county will be re-commissioned to provide four in the east and three in the west. It came as pressure in inpatient beds was branded ‘not sustainable’ with people being sent across the country for treatment.

Tim Goodson, chief officer of Dorset CCG, said the process will begin on mental health changes ‘almost immediately.’

What's happening with the community hospitals 

“THIS is a very sad day for all who live in the area.” 

That is the message from Jacqueline Moss, chair of Friends of St Leonards Hospital, after hearing health bosses voted for its closure. 

She said: “I am furious, absolutely furious. We had fought long and hard and it will close in about 18 months. What’s going to happen to all those people? Of course, we don’t know. It’s very scary for everyone involved because all the nurses and staff know it will all end in tears and people are not going to get the care they need. 

“I have no words as we have said it all.” 

Under the plans other community hospitals will lose beds, including Wareham Hospital which will be a community hub. 

Community hubs with beds will be located at hospitals including Swanage, Wimborne, Blandford, RBH and Poole Hospital. 

Dorset County Hospital and Christchurch Hospital will become community hubs without beds but the palliative care beds at Christchurch will be unaffected. 

Community beds will also be lost at Alderney Hospital once alternative services have been set up. 

Dorset CCG locality lead Dr Karen Kirkham said providing more services closer to home with a focus on primary care will benefit patients and reduce A&E attendances.