Dorset Care Commissioning Group (CCG) has officially decided that the threatened inpatient beds at Westminster Memorial Hospital are to be saved after all.
The health body today backed a recommendation that the 15 beds in Shaftesbury should be retained.
The decision follows a powerful campaign by opponents of the closures in Shaftesbury, Gillingham and Mere and represents a major U-turn by the authority.
Earlier this year the body’s officials recommended the inpatient beds should be scrapped, a move which would have forced patients and their relatives to travel much longer distances and which caused deep anger among residents in much of North Dorset and parts of south-west Wiltshire.
However, last week its officials announced they had changed their mind and now backed the retention of the beds, a recommendation formally adopted by the Dorset CCG’s governing body today.
The recommendation reads: ‘We propose to maintain a community hub with beds in Shaftesbury whilst working with the local community on a sustainable model for future services based on the health and care needs of this locality.’
The confirmation of the U-turn has been enthusiastically welcomed by campaigners against the closures, led by Shaftesbury-based Save Our Beds!
In making their decision, the governing board acknowledged that the case for keeping the beds had been vigorously and well argued by the community and the points made justified the change to their proposals.
In a joint press release issued with Gillingham Town Council, the Mayor of Shaftesbury, Councillor John Lewer, expressed his delight at the outcome, which he attributed to the effort of the Town Council’s WMH Working Group in conjunction with Julian Prichard’s ‘brilliant’ Save Our Beds! (SOB) campaign.
Most importantly, the way the community in and around Shaftesbury, the villages and across the borders into Wiltshire had been galvanized by the campaign, responding without hesitation was fantastic, he said.
Councillor Lewer said: ‘I am sure I speak on behalf of the whole local community when I thank the CCG for listening, as they so evidently did, to our case. And on behalf of the Council, I pledge our full support for the on-going process of finding a sustainable solution to healthcare provision in this area.’
The Mayor of Gillingham, Councillor Belinda Ridout, conveyed her sincere gratitude and thanks on behalf of Gillingham Town Council, in partnership with Shaftesbury Town and Mere Town Council and surrounding parishes who, together with guidance and support from the local MPs, formulated a united response to the CCG Dorset consultation. Councillor Ridout praised the steadfast and continued support of the local community who supported the organisers of the campaign to its successful conclusion.
In their joint press release the town councils said: ‘This decision has wide ranging opportunities for the whole community. It opens up the prospect of planning for a long term future for “NHS based Community Healthcare” for the Gillingham/Shaftesbury area and for the needs of those from South Wiltshire who depend on the facilities. The Board of Governors of the CCG has stipulated that it will work with the local community to (find) a “sustainable model for future services”.’
They continued: ‘Meetings and discussions of interested partners and organisations have already started to look at establishing who the “stakeholders” are so that a plan can be developed. There are no limits to the suggestions that will be looked at and high on the list must be finding opportunities to enhance the WMH for the future if sensible and possible. Where? How? Whether? All the questions are now starting to be asked and answers sought.’