• Dorset CCG wants to commission emergency and elective care on separate sites
  • Campaigners granted hearing for judicial review in July
  • Estates design work subsequently delayed

Plans to split two hospitals into emergency and elective care centres as part of a £147m reconfiguration are being held up by a judicial review, which could delay a long awaited trust merger.

Local campaigners are challenging Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group’s decision to commission emergency services from Royal Bournemouth Hospital and elective services from Poole Hospital.


Debbie Fleming: ‘We are hopeful the CCG will be successful in defending its decision making process’

The sites currently provide both services, but the CCG’s plan will see Poole’s accident and emergency department downgraded to an urgent care centre. Most of Bournemouth’s elective work will be transferred to Poole.

The proposal followed a clinical services review launched in 2014.

However, the granting of the judicial review brought by the campaign group Defend Dorset NHS means the trusts must pause the estates design work.

The providers do not want to spend money on the design prior to the judicial review being resolved.

The judicial review will be heard on 17-18 July.

Campaigners are challenging a reduction in bed numbers at Poole and increased travel times for patients requiring emergency services, as well as the CCG’s decision making process.

Tony Spotswood, chief executive of Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch, told HSJ he was “not duly concerned” about the judicial review but it had the “potential” to delay some of the ongoing work.

“The CCG designed its process with a potential judicial review in mind and therefore I think they have been meticulous in their consultation process,” he said.

“The biggest implication is the potential to delay some of our work. We can’t start the estate design until the judicial review is resolved.”

The uncertainty created by the judicial review may also delay the proposed merger between Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospitals Foundation Trust and Poole Hospital FT.

Neither NHS Improvement nor the Competition and Markets Authority would consider the merger until the judicial review is resolved, Mr Spotswood added, because it “introduces such a high degree of uncertainty as to whether the benefits we have articulated would be realised”.

The leadership of both trusts, who see the merger as crucial to the reconfiguration’s success, has already pushed the timeline for the merger’s completion to April 2019.

It was previously hoped the merger could be completed by the autumn.

Debbie Fleming, chief executive of Poole Hospital FT, said: “At this stage it is difficult to be precise about the length of the delay the hearing could add to our work.

“We are hopeful the CCG will be successful in defending its decision making process and therefore anticipate the full implementation of the clinical services review will proceed as planned.

“We can continue to plan how services will use the planned and emergency sites; however, until the hearing is complete we will not be able to start the estate design work.”

Dorset CCG said it could not comment, beyond confirming the date of the judicial review.

The trusts attempted to merge in 2013 but their plan was blocked by the CMA’s predecessor the Competition Commission.

Dorset was named as one of the eight leading “integrated care systems” last year.