DEMONSTRATORS gathered outside NHS offices to protest against a radical A&E shake-up.

Norman Traub, a member of the Southend Keep Our NHS Public campaign, led the group as they arrived at the Southend Clinical Commissioning Group headquarters, in Baxter Avenue, to hand over a petition signed by 900 people.

Campaigners fears plans for one major A&E department in south Essex, likely to be at Basildon Hospital, will put patients at risk. Southend and Broomfield, in Chelmsford, are set to be downgraded under the plans.

Mr Traub, a former consultant haematologist at Southend Hospital, said: “We are against the cuts to funding of our A&E departments. They should be increasing funding because demand is going up all the time.

“The suspicion is that Southend A&E will be downgraded and they will only be doing elective surgeries. All the acute surgeries and medical emergencies will be going to Basildon.”

A plan has been published outlining the future of healthcare, and includes the aim of designating one specialist emergency hospital for the area within five years.

The Mid and South Essex Success Regime published its sustainability and transformation plan last week - which sets out that one hospital would focus on major emergencies. It is hoped this would free up more space at the other two hospitals, as well as more specialist doctors and nurses.

Mr Traub, 87, added: “Nothing has been agreed yet but it is being discussed.

“They have a black hole in their finances so in five years they want the hospitals to cut down their services so they can fill this hole.

“This is part of that plan to run down the NHS and privatise it so it will be like an American system.

“If you can afford it you can get insured and treated but who can afford that?”

The shake-up is looking at how Basildon, Southend and Broomfield will operate over the the next five years. It revolves around a proposal to make £214million of savings within the next four years.

Emergency departments in the remaining two hospitals, which are yet to be publicly announced, will deal with less serious cases such as broken bones and more minor conditions.

More minor ailments will be treated in the community following a revamp of local healthcare services.

Plans include making GP surgeries responsible for skin conditions, stroke recovery and various scans and tests.

Mr Traub is hoping that the petition - separate from an online one on the Government’s website - will bring NHS bosses’ attention to the public’s concerns over the controversial proposals.

He said: “We pay taxes for a decent NHS. We don’t pay for a third-rate service. We want it to be affordable and a service that delivers the best medical attention.”

Speaking after presenting the petition to an NHS meeting yesterday, Mr Traub told the Echo: “It went very well. I was allowed to share concerns and they accepted the petition. I hope it is taken on board.”