CHANGES to a clinical system mean patients now face travelling to Dorchester rather than Bridport for a medical procedure.

Dorset Healthcare has assured residents that the move is ‘a temporary measure’.

A spokesman confirmed that only people with new referrals for gastroscopy are affected by the changes.

But concerns have been raised over services being removed – even temporarily – from Bridport Community Hospital, and the impact this will have on patients who don’t have their own transport.

A gastroscopy is a procedure where a thin, flexible tube called an end oscope is used to look inside the oesophagus (gullet), stomach and first part of the small intestine (duodenum). It can be used for diagnostic or treatment purposes.

A spokesman for Dorset Healthcare explained the change is due to a new clinical system being introduced.

He added: “Gastroscopy services at Bridport Hospital and Dorset County Hospital have to date used the same clinical reporting system to support patient services. A new clinical system is now being installed at Dorset County Hospital and we are exploring whether this can also be implemented at Bridport Hospital. To ensure continuity for our patients, people with new referrals for gastroscopy will be seen at Dorset County as a temporary measure and no other services are affected.”

It is not expected that any jobs will be affected by the change, the spokesman said.

But health campaigner and town councillor Ros Kayes said she remained concerned – and would welcome a deadline for gastroscopy services to return to Bridport Community Hospital.

She said: “I am really concerned about any services being moved out of Bridport Hospital.

“The transport links are not brilliant and it’s difficult for people to get to Dorchester if they don’t drive. The more services we have at Bridport Hospital, the more viable it is.”

Cllr Kayes added that the change is likely to affect vulnerable people the most.

“In 2011 there was a chance Bridport Hospital might lose a lot of its services. We ran a community health campaign and did a survey. We got about 980 responses from people who use Bridport Hospital – and a lot are from the surrounding communities of Burton Bradstock, Beaminster and Broadwindsor – and 90 per cent were on some form of benefit, such as a pension or disability allowance. For these people without their own transport to get to Dorchester, they would first have to get a bus into Bridport, then another bus from Bridport to Dorchester. That has a huge impact on people on a low income.”

She added: “There is always a worry that when services are moved out – even temporarily – that they won’t come back. I would like the health trust to offer a deadline as to when gastroscopy procedures will be moved back to Bridport.”