Dorset

Hundreds march over threat to children's ward at Dorset County Hospital

Kingfisher Ward march through Dorchester Image copyright Tia Roos
Image caption The march took place from Top O' Town roundabout to Borough Gardens in Dorchester

About 1,500 protestors have marched through Dorchester ahead of a decision on whether to cut children's services at Dorset County Hospital.

A campaign to save the Kingfisher Ward and the special care baby unit has also attracted more than 26,000 signatures.

The NHS Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is due to make a decision after a public consultation in January.

Campaigner Naomi Patterson said the march signified what reaction the CCG could expect during the consultation.

The plans are part of a wider review of the county's hospitals.

The CCG proposes scrapping beds and running a part time paediatric assessment centre, with serious cases being sent to Poole or Bournemouth.

It said any future paediatric services would "provide safe, high-quality care, at the right time for all children across the county".

Image copyright Donna Singleton
Image caption Around 1,500 people marched through Dorchester to make their voices heard against the proposed cuts

Mrs Patterson's son George suffered brain damage as a result of meningitis and often needs emergency care at Dorset County Hospital for epilepsy.

She said parents would "not stand by and watch the down-grading of our children's services" in west Dorset.

'No money to be saved'

She added using services in east Dorset, in Poole or Bournemouth, was an unacceptable option if travelling with a sick child.

The campaign has the support of West Dorset MP Oliver Letwin, whose investigation into the cuts has shown they are not cost-effective.

He said: "I am absolutely clear that the best interest of patients lies in maintaining paediatric in-patient services at Dorset County Hospital.

"I have had absolute confirmation that there is no money to be saved from moving them to Bournemouth or Poole, and the advantages of Dorchester in terms of access are huge."

The CCG's proposals are now being investigated by the Royal Colleges, which will produce a report in February.

Mr Letwin said he was "confident" the report would "rule in favour of maintaining services at Dorchester within a wider network that can share expertise".

A previous march against the proposals was held in June.

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