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Dorset County Hospital is an NHS district general hospital in the town of Dorchester, Dorsetmarker, Englandmarker and is operated by West Dorset General Hospitals NHS Trust. The hospital is the hub of the district's inpatient facilities but community hospitals, owned by the North and South West Dorset Primary Care Groups are situated in the surrounding major towns and provide the 'spokes' to the central unit. Dorset County Hospital has 500 beds.


The hospital was founded in 1840 and the first purpose-built buildings were constructed in 1841 south of Princes Street in the town centre. The site's facilities continued to expand through the 20th century in a piecemeal fashion, leaving a crowded site with several old buildings unsuitable for modern clinical care. It was thus that a site for a new purpose-built District General Hospital for the area was identified to the west of the town centre, on the land sandwiched between Bridport Road, Damer's Road, Damer's First School and the Bristol to Weymouth railway line. This was adjacent to Damer's Hospital, originally the workhouse.


Construction of the first phases on the new site took place in the late 1980s, with Phase One at the north of the site adjacent to Bridport Road and the separate Children's Centre at the south of the site adjacent to Damer's Road. Phase One has a distinctive red and blue external colour scheme. Upon opening, Phase One was known as West Dorset General Hospital, to differentiate it from the Somerleigh Road site, from which several services continued to operate, and which continued to be known as Dorset County Hospital.

Phase Two was constructed in the mid 1990s, along with the Hospital Link Road (named Williams Avenue), connecting Bridport and Damer's Roads and giving access to the hospital. Phase Two's completion enabled all services to relocate from Princes Street, as well some facilities (including Accident and Emergency, which had not previously been present in Dorchester) from Weymouth. The hospital was officially opened by Her Majesty the Queen on 8 May,1998. The Somerleigh Road site has subsequently been redeveloped for housing, a retirement home, public car parking and tennis courts relocated from the adjacent Borough Gardens.


In the Sunday Times Good Hospital Guide 2004, West Dorset's patient satisfaction rating is bettered by only one trust in England and it scores well with respect to most of the other performance indicators. The mortality rate is 8% below the expected level and is among the best 30 nationally. The trust is just one of five in England where all inpatients are admitted within six months of referral and the proportion of outpatients seen by a consultant within 13 weeks of referral is among the 30 highest. The trust's facilities are also very clean: it is ranked in the top ten in England for the high standards of cleanliness in the A&E department and in outpatients' toilets.

In 2005 the hospital was awarded three-star status in the NHS's performance ratings.

Future developments

Work has begun on a new £2m cardiac unit that will provide services such as cardiac catheterisation, which means that patients will no longer have to be transferred to Southampton General Hospitalmarker for this procedure. Other future plans for the hospital include the creation of a sensory room with lights, music and textured surfaces to stimulate young patients in Digby Court, the Trust's residential centre for children with complex learning disabilities. Improvements have also been made to the environment in Hardy Ward, the Stroke Unit.


The Trust's clinical services are organised into four directorates and provide the following services centralised on the Dorset County Hospital Site.

Emergency and medical services

Planned and surgical services

Family services

Diagnostic services

The hospital is also recognised as a cancer unit for the provision of services for patients with gynaecological, breast, colorectal, urological, upper gastrointestinal, lung and haematological malignancies. While most chemotherapy is given locally, the radiotherapy centre is in the Cancer Centre at Poolemarker.


  • Draper, J. 1992 Dorchester: An illustrated history Wimborne: Dovecote Press

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