A BID to save Southend Hospital’s acute stroke unit is expected to be launched by councillors.

Plans to centralise specialist stroke services at Basildon Hospital have come under fire from Southend councillors who are poised to refer them to the Health Secretary.

The Mid and South Essex Transformation and Sustainability Partnership – the NHS body proposing the change – is behind a range of proposals to shake-up frontline care.

It would mean patients receive initial emergency treatment at their nearest hospital before being transported to one of the area’s three hospitals depending on which was offering the specialist service.

This would include transporting stabilised stroke patients to a hyper-acute stroke unit at Basildon Hospital, which already has a specialist cardiothoracic centre – a move which is supported by the Stroke Association.

Councillors initially proposed referring the whole treat and transfer plan to the Health Secretary.

However, the council’s people scrutiny committee – which meets next week – will consider whether to call-in the plans for the hyper-acute stroke unit, claiming it should be based in Southend.

In addition, they say they still have unanswered questions on other aspects of the plans.

Cheryl Nevin, Labour chairman of the scrutiny committee, said: “This is still to be voted on but all of our concerns have not been addressed. We are still waiting for those issues to be addressed. This part of the consultation on stroke services will be implemented towards the end of the STPs five-year plan.

“Because of that, workforce plans haven’t been done yet though we have constantly asked for them. Transport plans they have started looking at but we haven’t yet seen anything so we are being asked to make a judgement on something we haven’t seen.

“Stroke services is something Southend does really well and as that is towards the end of the plan we would hope by that time we would have information on things like transport.”

Referral of the whole plan could have put £118million of Government funding on hold, and potentially at risk, but Ms Nevin said this need not be the case with a referral of just the one aspect of the plans.

She said: “It won’t necessarily have the same impact. Gastroenterology due to go to Basildon hasn’t been agreed with clinicians so that has, at the moment, been removed from the STP plans. As stoke services are at the end of the five years we feel it’s right to refer this. We feel this element could quite easily be isolated.”

When asked if centralising the service in Southend would mean patients across Essex would suffer, Ms Nevin responded: “Southend has the largest proportion of patients that need stroke services so we would not be asking more people to move rather than keeping them where they can get the necessary treatment.

“The Southend stroke unit has led the way and it would be a shame to have to take that away from Southend. We have the airport and a medical technical centre nearby and it would be wonderful to have stroke research money coming to the area.

“Ultimately, it’s in the best interests of our patients as Southend has the largest population. We hope an independent reconfiguration panel will look at it, but at the end of the day we want what is best.

“They can do that without holding up the rest of the plan. The secretary of state is more likely to look at one service if he feels we have a strong case.”

Prof Mike Bewick, independent chair of the joint committee of the five clinical commissioning groups in mid and south Essex said: “We are confident the evidence behind the model of care recommended by the hospital’s stroke clinicians, and subsequently approved by the joint committee in July, will enhance the existing provision of stroke services for our whole population.

“As recognised by the East of England clinical senate and the Stroke Association, the development of a specialist unit at Basildon, working alongside the three existing acute stroke units, will enable the hospitals to provide consistent 24-hour seven-day-a-week intensive therapeutic care and improve the outcomes for stroke patients and their families. While we recognise the important role that scrutiny committees fulfil, it’s disappointing Southend councillors are considering this approach so late in the day, despite regular engagement with them.”