CLAIMS breast cancer test results in Southend could be delayed by 48 hours due to the removal of a specialist machine have been denied by the hospital.

Southend Hospital is attempting to address fears a vital machine was due to be removed and one at Basildon Hospital used instead.

A leaked letter from Dr Simon Payne, lead breast cancer pathologist, appeared briefly on the Save Southend NHS Facebook page. It informed cancer specialists of a potential 48-hour delay in analysing tests from breast cancer patients if the machine was removed from Southend. The post has since been taken down.

The Ventana machine based in the pathology department at Southend Hospital analyses markers for both breast and lung cancer.

The letter says a feasibility study concluded it was not “economically viable” to have a machine at both Southend and Basildon hospitals and recommends a “rationalisation to one machine” at Basildon which has a cardio-thoracic centre.

Dr Payne said: “The principle reasoning for this, I understand, is that an assessment has been made such that the pathway for lung cancer is thought more time critical than breast cancer and there would be advantage to lung cancer patients – without tangible detriment to breast cancer patients – in this set up.”

The letter refers to “discussions with parties unknown” and a business case, “with important backers”. It calls on clinicians to give their views on the impact of a two-day delay for breast cancer diagnosis.

The letter says a “cancer alliance” at the three hospitals approved of the plan, but Southend Hospital has denied it will move the Ventana machine. The hospital declined to comment on whether a feasibility study took place.

A spokesman for the hospital said: “We are aware of the speculation and would like to reassure members of the public there are no plans for removal of the equipment. Cancer care remains at the heart of the services we provide at Southend University Hospital.”

Mike Fieldhouse, secretary of Save Southend NHS, said: “Southend Hospital were very quick to deny this plan when we published it on our Facebook page but the intentions stated in the leaked letter seem very clear to me.

“There are already plans afoot that would make Southend reliant on Basildon and slow down the diagnosis of breast cancer in Southend by at least two days – that will mean the difference between life and death for some patients”

Discussions are ongoing about how some hospital services could be split.