THE leading consultant at Southend Hospital A&E has said she opposes radical plans to overhaul emergency services in Essex.

Dr Caroline Howard, lead consultant at Southend A&E and Medical Director for Southend Hospital, spoke out at a Rochford District Council meeting to discuss NHS plans for Southend, Basildon and Broomfield hospitals.

The Mid and South Essex Success Regime wants to downgrade two of the area’s A&E and make the other one, most likely Basildon, into a specialist emergency centre. Only this centre would offer a 24-7 blue light service.

Campaigners are worried patients will suffer if ambulances get stuck on often gridlocked roads like the A127.

At a special meeting of the council on Thursday, the success regime presented their proposals to councillors.

Dr Howard said she was also speaking on behalf of her counterparts at both Broomfield and Basildon. She told councillors she didn’t agree with the proposals for having just one specialist A&E and said that the further you have to travel, the more likely you are to die.

Dr Howard added: “As a clinician, I need to do the best for my patients and this is not the best outcome for them.”

Speaking on Friday, Mike Fieldhouse, secretary of campaign group Save Southend A&E, said: “The credibility of the Mid & South Essex Success Regime’s claim that their proposals to downgrade Southend’s A&E department are clinically driven lie in tatters following last night’s events at the extraordinary meeting of Rochford District Council concerning the A&E.

Norman Traub, a former consultant haematogist at Southend Hospital and a member of the campaign group, said: “As a doctor and a patient I believe the changes to A&Es would lead to loss of life on the road. If the success regime proposals go ahead this is against the advice of Dr Howard who in her statement said she was representing the views of doctors at Basildon and Chelmsford as well as Southend. Nothing could be clearer than that.”

Dr Ronan Fenton, medical director for the Mid and South Essex Success Regime, said: “We were delighted to have the opportunity to present our current thinking to the members of Rochford District Council and those in the public gallery.

“We were able to explain we are still in a period of discussion where our clinical teams are exploring and putting forward a diverse range of views where the vision remains the same, but a step-by-step approach is taken.”