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DORSET NHS leaders are to resume consultations with local people over the future of community services in the north Dorset area, they promised last week.

Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group and Dorset Healthcare said the work will start again shortly after being ‘put on hold’ at the end of last year to give time for a special group to be set up as a way of involving local people in the discussions.

NHS leaders had faced criticism for appearing to renege on a promise to consult local people after agreeing to keep the beds at Shaftesbury’s Westminster Memorial Hospital following the results of the year-long clinical services review announced last September.

The Shaftesbury, Gillingham, South West Wiltshire and Somerset (SGSWWS) Community Services Reference Group first met in February and last week it finally agreed for the work on future services to start again ‘so that [group] members can give their views on the options before they are shared with the wider community.’

The work on options – which will include looking at possible NHS service locations, the range of services, including beds and how these might be provided, timescales and costings – is expected to take three months to complete.

Dorset CGG added that the engagement reference group will continue to meet in the meantime to receive progress reports on any service development, changes or initiatives and to make recommendations on the best ways of sharing information with the wider community and seeking their views on options.

Dr Simone Yule, who chairs the engagement reference group, said: ‘Members of the engagement reference group have given a clear steer that they would like the work on developing options for local services to resume.

‘The group will advise on how best the options can be presented to local people so that we can seek their views too. This is a really good example of how local people can be involved in discussions to shape the development of local health services.’

• Dr Simone Yule is one of the guest speakers next week at the first meeting for six months of Shaftesbury Town Council’s Westminster Memorial Hospital working group. The meeting, on 23 April at Shaftesbury town hall, will also hear from Sara Froud, Dorset Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust locality manager for North Dorset, Julian Prichard, founder of the ‘Save our Beds’ campaign, and Melanie Costas, founder of the Save Our Mental Health campaign.

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