A LEADING consultant told how plans to downgrade Southend’s A&E department are “potentially hazardous” and will spark a recruitment crisis at the hospital.

Dr Joseph O’Brien, a consultant gastroenterologist at Southend Hospital, believes proposals put forward by the Mid and South Essex Success Regime could have “dire consequences” for residents.

Under the plans, Basildon Hospital will become a specialist emergency centre. Southend and Broomfield, in Chelmsford, would take less serious cases.

Dr O’Brien spoke out after James Duddridge, Conservative candidate for Rochford and Southend East, said doctors will decide on the changes before they are introduced.

The most seriously ill patients will be taken to Basildon hospital - which will run the only 24/7 blue light service - sparking fears that lives will put at risk during ambulance journeys on often gridlocked roads.

Dr O’Brien argues the NHS overhaul will spell the “beginning of the end” for Southend Hospital as doctors and nurses will not want to work there.

He said: “There are sound medical reasons why this proposal is ill judged and potentially hazardous. Downgrading the A&E department is the death knell for a hospital. Emergency medical and surgical admissions are its life blood, allowing the development of experience and expertise.

“Doctors and nurses will not consider Southend Hospital in future for lack of training opportunities.”

Dr O’Brien said a growing population and busy airport means residents have a right to “quality healthcare within an appropriate distance.”

He added: “It is hard to imagine a town whose emergency healthcare will be more compromised.

“The proposal to downgrade Southend A&E is couched in language that acts as a smokescreen. The general public have had little information regarding the significance and dangers of this proposed move.

“It is not alarmist to be concerned about patients dying on the A127.

“This threat to A&E must be taken very seriously, its implications discussed and the weasel words of politicians challenged.

“Residents have a right to expect emergency cases to be sent to a fully functioning and equipped Southend Hospital. Be in no doubt, if Southend Hospital A&E is downgraded it is the beginning of the end.”

A MOTORIST told how she witnessed an ambulance stuck in traffic at roadworks on the A127...reigniting fears that lives will be put in danger when A&E changes come into force.
Work to widen Kent Elms was expected to be complete by spring, but will now continue until December

Vanda Morgan, from Leigh said: “I experienced complete gridlock at the Kent Elms traffic lights as an ambulance, with its blue lights flashing, tried to get through the lights when they have half the road actually closed and single lanes. It was complete and utter mayhem.
“Why are they not working around the clock to rectify the mistakes they made? “

Southend Hospital maintains most patients will continue to be seen locally despite the NHS overhaul.

Celia Skinner, chief medical officer for Southend Hospital, said: “In all of the options currently being discussed, around 95 per cent of hospital visits would remain local at each hospital and there would continue to be an A&E, supervised by consultants and open 24/7 at each of the three hospitals.  All three local A&Es would be able to treat the majority of cases.

“They would retain the skills and facilities to provide immediate stabilisation and management of all emergencies that arrive at the hospital and, where appropriate, arrange onward transfer.”