Campaigners against NHS changes in Essex have called for the plans to go back to the drawing board following criticism from councillors.

The Joint Health Overview Scrutiny Committee this week raised a raft of concerns over plans to change the way hospitals and GP services operate in mid and south Essex.

The committee said it was worried about current staffing shortages and whether there was enough cash to back the plans put forward by the Mid and Southend Essex Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP).

The concerns include plans to transport patients between specialist centres in Southend, Basildon and Broomfield Hospitals. The Save Southend NHS campaign group said: “The Joint Health Overview Scrutiny Committee raise many of the concerns Save Southend NHS have about the partnership’s plans. They have failed to tackle the root cause of many of our problems locally, which is a chronic shortage of skilled staff.

“We don’t have enough GPs and of the ones we do have, 20 per cent are due to retire in the next five years. Their plans to reduce the number of people visiting hospitals by anything up to 35 per cent are ridiculous and are bound to fail with the lack of investment they are willing to put into primary care.

“They need to go back to the drawing board and come up with a set of coherent plans that address the challenges to our NHS in a meaningful and properly thought through way.”

Bernard Arscott, chairman of the joint committee, which includes councillors from Southend, Essex and Thurrock councils, said: “There are a number of concerns and we will be looking further at these issues.

“People want more information but the partnership but if they don’t get the support they want for the consultation they won’t put flesh on the bones of the arrangements like transport. We reserve the right to scrutinise these issues. We said we need more information.”

Dr Anita Donley OBE, independent chair of the Mid and South Essex STP, said: “Our vision across the system is to unite the different health and care services to provide responsive, quality care for our population.

“The proposals outlined in the consultation are only part of the story. Work has already started to ensure colleagues such as GPs, therapists, community nurses are supported to provide the care they want to deliver.”