Dorset Defend Our NHS – our story

Debby Monkhouse
Defend Dorset NHS
“I’ve been involved in two big campaigns in Dorset. In this article I talk about what’s working for us and how did we grow as a campaign. I’m sure there are many people in KONP who can share the work they’ve done and the successes they’ve had.

I live in Swanage, at the end of the Isle of Purbeck. It’s a long way on country roads that are packed in the holidays to the nearest A&E, Maternity and Children’s units at Poole which are scheduled to close in the ‘reconfiguration’. Once these services are lost at Pool. It will be an hour by blue light from Swanage to access these services at Bournemouth instead.

Both the two big Dorset campaigns were about access to emergency care.

The first campaign was to try to stop the closure of Poole A&E, Maternity and Paediatrics. A key concession made by Dorset CCG during the campaign was the dropping of the possibility of closing Dorset County Maternity and Paediatrics, announced in the media on the morning Dorset Health Scrutiny were due to vote on whether to refer the plans for Poole. All our hard work has certainly delayed the A&E closure, a spokesperson for NHS Dorset reported that A&E at Poole will be kept open until at least late 202

The second campaign was to save the Swanage based Purbeck ambulance car – and – great news on this one – we saved it.

What did we do? In short – everything we could think of.

To try to save Poole A&E, Maternity and Paediatrics we:

  1. Had a March through Poole and a rally
  2. Raised FOI’s to get all the data we could relating to numbers of extended emergency admission journeys that would result from the closures – 36,000 per year.
  3. Collected over 8,000 petition signatures by hand in Purbeck, with Unite and online petitions there were 37,000 petitioners in total to save the services.
  4. Took a Judicial Review and got as far as the Court of Appeal.
  5. Lobbied Dorset Council for a year until they referred the plans back to the Secretary of State, then lobbied Poole Council to support Dorset Council’s referral, then we made a 98 page researched and evidenced submission to the ‘Independent Panel’ reviewing the reconfiguration plans: (this includes at pages 25-9 a summary of the evidence at the time regarding the risks inherent in longer travel times)
  6. Wrote a report to lobby the Competition and Markets Authority to try to stop the merger of Poole and Bournemouth Hospitals (similar to the IRP one but focused on all the holes in their alleged “Patient Benefits Case”: )
  7. Objected to the hospital building changes at planning
  8. Lobbied the hospital governors to vote against the merger (this is a shorter document sections of which would apply to most mergers: )
  9. Had a local and national press campaign, including setting up ‘Defend Dorset NHS’ FB page which had 35,000 followers at it’s peak.

To Save Swanage Ambulance Car we:

  1. Raised FOI’s and were able to demonstrate the emergency response times going up way beyond targets as the Car staffing went down
  2. Collected 8,000 signatures on the petition to Dorset CCG and almost 5,000 on the petition to Dorset Council asking them to stand up for us. We started a 3rd petition where we photoshopped our MP into a ‘Save Swanage Ambulance Car’ T shirt to try to get him to stand up for us
  3. Had a banner, stake and poster campaign in Purbeck – 45 banners, over 300 garden stakes, which we made, and thousands of posters. Had petition stalls at lots of community events, including a memorial concert for a local 25 year old who very sadly died of brain cancer and whose family were supported by the Car Paramedic. People attending donated £3,000 to the campaign that day (which enabled us to start to explore the possibility JR if the Car went).
  4. Passed motions at 6 Purbeck Parish and Town Councils, which were used to lobby Dorset Council Cabinet, the Ambulance Trust and Dorset CCG
  5. Had a media campaign, with local people and children appearing on BBC South Today, regular updates in local press and radio, set up a facebook page and a website:

A local 4 year old with complex epilepsy who stopped breathing and whose parents had to do CPR until the Paramedic comes became the face of our campaign.

Both the booklet and subsequently the song link were sent to all Purbeck Councillors, all Purbeck GP’s, Dorset Council Cabinet members, and Dorset CCG & South West Ambulance Board members.

  • We had a colouring competition ‘colour in the ambulance car’ at a local primary, which the Head then asked the Ambulance Trust to judge

It has been a long fight and the Town Council continues to raise FOI’s to the Ambulance Trust so that we can monitor the car use, staffing, and emergency response times for Purbeck.

What’s worked? Persistence. Trying to engage everyone, and use every avenue. Neither Dorset Council nor Dorset CCG were expecting the extent of community resistance to the loss of services at Poole, and this has played a part in us winning the Ambulance Car battle.

Debby Monkhouse
Dorset Defend Our NHS

Key links

Download ambulance car booklet here

Ambulance car website

Ambulance Car Song