A £2.5MILLION specialist surgery centre is set to be built at Southend Hospital.

The vascular centre, treating patients with hardened arteries or life-threatening bleeding, moved a step closer after the hospital board signed off plans.

The 24-hour, state-of-the-art regional centre would allow more operations, on the veins and arteries, and create jobs.

The hospital trust is pressing on with plans for the centre, which looks set to open in March 2015, despite doubts about a plan for a national network of similar centres.

Hospital chief executive, Jacqueline Totterdell, said: “While decisions around the combined service are still unclear from a commissioning perspective, the trust board has given the green light to push ahead with the development.”

Southend was designated the South Essex centre of excellence for vascular surgery after a review by the East of England specialised commissioning team in 2012.

Ms Totterdell added: “On the basis of this, the trust board gave approval at the time for the development of a dedicated endovascular theatre to be built here as, apart from very minor procedures, all vascular surgery would be carried out at Southend.”

The centre would be housed in vacant space next to the hospital’s operating theatre complex.

Money for the project will come from cash set aside in last year’s budget that was not spent, and will be topped up by funds provided this year.

Life-saving vascular surgeries to remove clots are currently carried out in whichever operating theatre happens to be available, limiting the number of patients that can be treated.

NHS England is now reconsidering proposals for 50 vascular centres across the country, which originally would have included at least two in Essex. However, public consultation about the plans never materialised because of Government NHS changes, leaving Southend in limbo and resulting in it going it alone.

Even though the board has given the unit the go-ahead, it has not yet been awarded the service by the specialised commissioning group, which recommended Southend as a site for the centre.