CAMPAIGNERS are plotting the next step of their fight after cuts at Bridport Community Hospital were given the green light.

The Community Health Campaign has written an open letter to the chairman of the Dorset Health Scrutiny Committee which backed the moves.

It has also appealed for people in the Bridport area who may be affected by the changes to get in touch – particularly those entitled to legal aid so it can minimise costs of a judicial review.

The review would challenge the way the decision was taken and force the committee to think again.

The changes, set to take effect in July, include a reduction of 334 outpatient appointments – including new and follow-up appointments. These relate to orthotics, consultant colorectal clinics and nurse-led irritable bowel syndrome clinics.

Theatre usage will drop from three to two days and their usage will be reviewed after a year.

Health chiefs say that there will be sufficient paediatric, nurse-led respiratory and nurse-led urology clinics to meet patient demand.

The Bridport News-backed campaign against the cuts collected more than 11,000 signatures on a petition and 900 replies to survey about the potential impact.

Coun Ros Kayes, of the Community Health Campaign, said: “Unless the committee accept that they have been slack and take this back, the only way we can overturn this now is through a judicial review but this is a time-consuming process and will be costly unless we get protected costs.

“We need to know whether the people of Bridport want us to do this. We have 11,000 signatures on our petition and 900 respondents to our survey so we know there is support for the campaign.”

The CHC’s letter to committee chairman Ron Coatsworth challenges the way the decision was reached.

Its concerns include the consultation process, lack of data, an inadequate equalities impact assessment, the assessment of transport provision, consideration of data supplied by the campaign and the assessment of the changes as minor. The letter calls for the committee to be reconvened and a full report on the changes carried before the impact is assessed.

Coun Kayes said that if the committee fails to reconsider, the judicial review may be the way forward.

She added: “We need people who are going to be affected by the cuts and who are also entitled to legal aid to come forward. That way we could take a class action and engage a barrister to act without the fear of huge costs.”

Contact Coun Kayes on 07920 850167.

Ronald Coatsworth, chairman of the Dorset Health Scrutiny Committee, said: “All of the proper procedures were followed in reaching this decision.

“The proposals were reviewed and scrutinised in detail by a special ‘task and finish group’, made up of councillors from all areas of the county potentially affected as well as representatives from the Dorset Local Involvement Network ( LINk).

“We were able to discuss the proposals in depth with health professionals from the Primary Care Trust, Dorset County Hospital Foundation Trust and Dorset Healthcare University Foundation Trust.

“The task and finish group then reported its deliberations to the committee for further debate and discussion. All aspects of the changes were carefully examined, including the potential impact on access to services, and we were happy with the quality of data provided.

“There was also extensive consultation with GPs and the public, including six public events which were attended by more than 500 people in total. In fact, the consultation was praised by the Dorset LINk for its thoroughness.”


DETAILS from the CHC’s hospital survey, which was collated and analysed by a professional statistician, indicate that less than 50 per cent of those who responded would be able to get to Dorchester via their own transport.

Some 62 per cent were over the age of 66, 60 per cent were regular users of the hospital and 28 per cent had an ongoing medical condition. Ninety per cent were entitled to free prescriptions.

Forty-four per cent of respondents live in the villages surrounding Bridport which have poor access to public transport.

The survey measures the differences between transport to Bridport and Dorchester and campaigners say it provides clear statistical evidence that the changes will have a more severe impact on vulnerable groups than other patients.