• Councillors in Dorset refer NHS reconfiguration plans to health and social care secretary
  • NHS chiefs to continue to draw up business case
  • Poole Foundation Trust CEO confirmed as interim chief of two trusts

Health chiefs in Dorset have “confidence” in their plans to reconfigure acute services in the county despite two local authorities asking for a review by health secretary Matt Hancock, they have said.

Poole Council decided to send a letter to the Department of Health and Social Care supporting Dorset County Council’s referral of the Dorset integrated care system’s £147m transformation plans.

Dorset County Council chose to refer the plans, which turning hospitals in Bournemouth and Poole into emergency and planned care hospitals respectively, to the DHSC in October.

Their decision came after local campaigners raised concerns about the impact of longer ambulance journeys for patients in the Poole area, due to Poole Hospital’s emergency department being earmarked for downgrade to an urgent care centre under the plans.

Last week, Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group published a review which assessed the outcome of longer journey times for 34 high-risk patients treated recently.

The review, which was carried out by emergency medicine consultants and medical directors from the county’s three acute providers and paramedics from South Western Ambulance Service Trust, concluded that the increased travel times would not have changed those patients’ outcomes.

A decision by Mr Hancock is expected by spring 2019.

Local NHS leaders are now preparing the outline business case which will be submitted to the Treasury to access the £147m allocated to the reconfiguration by the government.

Tim Goodson, chief officer of the CCG, told HSJ: “We’re very confident in our proposals and plans which have been through the whole NHS England assurance process.

“I hope the review by the secretary of state will be completed prior to the business case going to the Treasury.”

He added: “We shall continue with our plans until such a time when someone tells us to stop, and we’ve given that message back to the county council.”

The referral of the plans to Mr Hancock comes ahead of a large shake-up of the local authorities in Dorset.

The county’s nine local authorities are merging into two unitary authorities. One will cover Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch, and the other will cover the rest of the county.

Council elections will be held in May. Earlier this year the CCG won a judicial review brought by a member of the public over the way the CCG had run the reconfiguration consultation.

Meanwhile, Poole FT’s chief executive Debbie Fleming has been confirmed as the new interim chief executive of both Poole and the Bournemouth foundation trust.

Her appointment comes as the two trusts work towards a merger which, local chiefs say, will make it easier to deliver the reconfiguration. Currently, the merger is not anticipated to be completed before 2020.

Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospitals chief executive Tony Spotswood announced earlier this month he will leave his post in January.

She said: “I shall be proud to work with staff, clinicians, governors and members across the two organisations as we move towards merger and take forward our significant capital programme.

“I am also really pleased to be continuing to work with local partners and stakeholders in implementing the wider Dorset transformation plan.

David Moss, the current chair of Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch FT, will become interim chair of both organisations.