We feared that privatisation could critically endanger the quality of Dorset County Hospital's pathology service and put patients at risk. We campaigned against this privatisation proposal and achieved success at the 8 October 2014 Hospital Board Meeting.
Over 100 people work at the Dorset County Hospital Pathology Laboratory, carrying out tests whose results guide the treatment of patients county-wide. Private companies submitted their offers to provide a service in place of the existing NHS Pathology Laboratory. The decision by the hospital board meeting in early October 2014 was to retain the existing facility and to incease investment to improve its facilities.
The Dorchester Pathology system provides a very acceptable testing service. It is a centre of excellence for cancer research testing which can provide on-site timely help for cancer patients in the hospital. The quality of service provided by the Pathology Laboratory was endorsed by 26 doctors in a letter to the Dorset Echo. The Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) did not give their support to our campaign. The CCG buys health care services for the whole of Dorset and is a committee composed mainly of GPs. Unfortunately the CCG showed no interest in the likely sale of the Pathology Laboratory despite the opposition of many GPs.
We called on Dorset County Hospital to respect the wishes of local people and to retain the pathology services at the Dorset County Hospital. This was our petition:
"We as Dorset residents wish to keep our NHS services local, publicly owned and managed. It is a major concern that our hospital's Pathology Department at DCH may be sold off and moved away from our county. We call upon the responsible health bodies to respect the wishes of local people and to retain our Pathology services at DCH."
The petition was handed to the Chairman of the Dorset County Hospital at the hospital board meeting on Wednesday 10th September. Together with the 8000 signatures on paper that we had collected in three months of campaigning in town centres, 2000 signatures were added from our on-line petition on the 38 Degrees campaigning web site.
38 Degrees is a UK internet campaigning organisation with over two million members. The Dorset Health Campaign group was formed two years ago through the hard-hitting ongoing campaigning for the NHS by 38 Degrees. Our petition had been on the 38 Degrees web site with many others for two months. It was selected by 38 Degrees of being worthy of direct support because of the hard work we had put into our campaign. They notified 38 Degrees members in Dorset the evening before the petition handover which amazingly resulted in 2000 signatures arriving overnight. The 38 Degrees petition had almost 3000 signatures. it was closed after our campaign achieved success.
Our petition campaign in support of the Dorchester hospital pathology laboratory was launched at the Town Pump in Dorchester town centre on Saturday 14th June. It was extremely successful. We collected over 1000 signatures and appeared in Wessex FM and the Dorset Echo. Support from the public was terrific. In addition a whole range of staff from the hospital came up to speak to us - doctors, nurses, technicians and former path lab employees. The staff at the hospital are totally in support of our campaign; some of them were almost in tears. We had lots of media attention, with photo shots. Our stand was supported by campaign members and families, pathology lab workers, the Exeter branch of Keep our NHS Public, and others. Even the Town Crier was with us!
The Dorset Health Campaign has been setting up town centre stalls almost daily from mid June to early August: see the photos in the web site gallery. Other means were then used to gather more support such as house visits and encouraging the public to write to their MP on the subject.