Plans to improve facilities at Royal Bournemouth Hospital (RBH), as part of the proposals to remove accident and emergency provision and maternity services from Poole Hospital, have been granted outline planning permission by Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council (BCP).
Now work can start to develop a new maternity and children’s hospital, a new emergency department, a new critical care unit and a new pathology service on the Bournemouth site.
This allows for services like accident and emergency and maternity provision to be removed from Poole Hospital and amalgamated at RBH.
Three councillors voted against the plans
While the majority of councillors backed the report by the BCP planning officer, Peter Burridge, who recommended the scheme for approval, there were three councillors who voted against the plans, Simon Bull, Tony Trent and Steve Baron.
Councillor Simon Bull said he believed that the plans would lead to traffic gridlock around the Bournemouth site. Councillor Tony Trent queried whether building a care home within the grounds of RBH and next to the multi storey car park was a good idea.
Tony Trent also said that while planning officers were keen to reduce car parking provision to encourage the use of public transport, he felt that in this scenario it was a retrograde step which may have to be revisited, as many patients will not be able to cycle or use public transport.
Councillor George Farquhar, whose ward is next to RBH expressed his objection to the proposals in the meeting. He said his material concern about the plans was that they would lead to an increase in traffic and congestion around RBH and have a negative impact on critical journey times and public safety. Speaking in the council planning meeting he said:
“This application will cause more, not less, staff, patient and visitor traffic. It will cause more congestion on the traffic network between the hospitals, with emergency patients from the west, plus visitors, needing to travel to RBH, and elective patients from the east needing to travel to Poole.”
Supportive of the move
Councillor Ann Stribley and a governor of Poole Hospital spoke in favour of the planning application and said that while originally she was minded not to be in favour of the plans to amalgamate services, she was now supportive of the move, although she was concerned that there was a need for more car parking at RBH.
Councillor David Kelsey, the chair of the BCP planning committee said:
“The plans for the Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospitals have been the subject of much collaboration between the hospital and our planners to ensure that the residents of the BCP Council area are getting the best care that can be offered and that all aspects of planning are met, whilst I am sure that not everyone is going to be happy with them being passed, the benefits of this will be for the betterment of local health care provision.”
“No clinical evidence has been provided to date to support the centralisation of services in rural areas”
Moving the accident and emergency and maternity services from Poole and amalgamating them at Bournemouth, which is further travelling time away from rural areas like Purbeck, has long been a concern to Swanage residents.
Swanage Town Councillor and coordinator of Defend Dorset NHS Residents Group, Debby Monkhouse submitted a written objection to the planning application. In it she said:
“Tens of thousands of Dorset residents remain extremely alarmed that these proposals are proceeding. No clinical evidence has been provided to date to support the centralisation of services in rural areas where longer travel times to care outweigh any benefits.
“The most reliable research shows for every additional 10 km travelled – about the distance between Poole and RBH – a one per cent absolute increase in mortality.
“The application was submitted prior to COVID-19 and inevitably does not address the issues raised by the pandemic, including the advised move away from public transport use and the resulting increase in car journeys across the conurbation and arriving at and leaving RBH.”
“Once in a generation development at the Royal Bournemouth Hospital”
Following the decision to approve the outline planning permission by 11 votes to three, Debbie Fleming, joint chief executive, Joint Chief Executive, Poole Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and The Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said:
“We are delighted that we can now begin to realise this once in a generation development at the Royal Bournemouth Hospital, which forms part of a wider £250m investment in acute hospital services in Dorset.
“These facilities will provide state-of-the-art services in which the very best healthcare can be provided for the populations we serve, within improved working environments that will benefit patients and staff alike.
“We will now start to accelerate the programme of work, which also includes plans for a new theatre complex at Poole Hospital and the creation of a new Macmillan Unit at Christchurch Hospital, and anticipate that the overall programme of works across all three hospitals will complete by 2026.”
Dr Forbes Watson, Dorset GP and Chair of NHS Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group, said:
“We believe today’s decision was the right one – firstly for the local healthcare system but most importantly for the people who will be using our services in the future. We can now proceed with plans which will greatly improve the local provision for generations to come.”