WAREHAM Hospital's Saxon Ward will close later this month with the loss of sixteen beds.

Under the current Clinical Services Review a new Purbeck health and social care hub is planned for Wareham, which meant the town hospital was already braced to lose the beds - but the closure has come a lot earlier than most thought it would.

Dorset HealthCare chief executive Ron Shields said: "For some time we have been working hard to staff the Saxon Ward at Wareham Hospital.

"Everything has been done to try and secure the qualified nurses needed to run the ward safely but, unfortunately, that has not been possible and so sadly the beds there will close later this month.

"The staff of Saxon Ward have provided a fabulous service to the people of Wareham for many years and they are justifiably very proud of what they have been able to achieve for the people of Wareham."

Saxon Ward, which offers end-of-life care, moved into the existing building 27 years ago.

No timetable has yet been set for the development of the new health and social care hub, and health bosses insist all other services at Wareham Hospital will continue until the hub, which will not have beds, is built.

Mr Shields explained: "Last year’s Clinical Services Review agreed that a new Purbeck health and social care hub would be established in the town.

"By January I, along with other NHS and local authority colleagues, will establish a clear timetable for the new hub to be built.

"There are no plans to close the hospital before the new hub is established. Until then, all other services will continue and it is possible that other services for the people of Purbeck might be attracted to the site."

Health chiefs also say they don't expect and Saxon Ward staff redundancies, as there are many vacancies across Dorset HealthCare.

Mr Shields added: "We have also assured current patients and their families that they will continue to be cared for on Saxon Ward, and we do not expect to be asking them to move.

"There will be a gradual closure of the ward while at the same time transferring ward staff to other roles."