SOS Purbeck NHS!

Save Our Services!

The NHS faces unprecedented challenges. 6.2 million people are waiting for routine hospital treatments, with A&E and ambulance waits soaring. NHS staff were justly praised for their self-sacrifice during the Pandemic – which is still with us. Yet the NHS needs more doctors, nurses and paramedics, not praise and good intentions. We also need to get back the 20,000 hospital beds lost over the last few years.

In Purbeck the promised enhanced local services have not materialised: it’s more difficult to get GP or NHS dentist appointments, the Wareham hub may be lost, the Friends of Swanage Cottage Hospital are battling to keep the Minor Injuries Clinic and a range of out-patients’ clinics. With Poole and Bournemouth hospitals merging, and the loss of highly valued A&E, Maternity and Children’s Departments from Poole, hospital care moves further away, and emergency vehicles face a journey through Purbeck country roads (often choked with holiday traffic) and gridlock in Bournemouth, described this year as one of the world’s most congested places.

Local campaigners, co-ordinated by Swanage Labour Councillor Debby Monkhouse, fought long and hard against the closure of the Poole Departments, with the case going to the Appeal Court at the Royal Courts of Justice, and then directly to the Secretary of State. In 2020, an Independent Review Panel upheld the decision to merge the two hospitals but suggested that an “A&E Local” – a daytime A&E at Poole – was a ‘possible viable option’, and that Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group should work with local authorities, Healthwatch and Defend Dorset NHS. This has not yet happened. The enhanced A&E, Maternity and Children’s services at Bournemouth are not due to open until late 2024, yet Poole A&E appears to have already been substantially closed.

Against this backdrop Purbeck residents faced the loss of the Swanage-based Ambulance Car. This was despite a minuted promise in 2018 by Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group that Swanage based ambulance services would be ‘fully maintained’ with the ending of emergency admissions at Poole. Freedom of Information Act data showed that as the Car staffing went down, emergency response times for Swanage and Wareham went up – it is a matter of life and death that the Car is kept.

Debby Monkhouse headed up the Purbeck wide campaign to save the Car, which is “tethered” to Purbeck so more likely to arrive promptly than an ambulance – which may take hours to do so. Residents whose lives, or those of loved ones, were saved by the Car Paramedic, told their poignant stories in the Campaigners’ booklet: “We Need Our Paramedic Car”. The Car has been saved – but serious concerns about its staffing remain. The Ambulance Trust acknowledged in February there were only two staff allocated when there should be five – so the battle continues.

The need to fully fund and resource our NHS could never be more urgent. Promises need to be kept – the NHS needs to be in safe hands – locally and nationally.