NO alternative plans have been put forward by those objecting to the biggest reorganisation of NHS hospital care in south Essex in decades.

The £118million plan to merge some services across Southend, Basildon and Broomfield Hospital has been referred to the Health Secretary putting them on hold.

It also means a delay in the reorganisation of primary GP led healthcare.

Labour Councillor Charles Willis, who played a significant part in writing the motion that led to the referral and is a member of Southend's Health and Wellbeing board, said: "This is not about us saying we can do better or that we have better ideas.

“The people are very skilled at what they do but we have a role to scrutinise what they want to do and we need to be confident that the model can be delivered.

"We want better healthcare for our residents and haven’t been given what we consider comprehensive answers."

Southend Council, which voted to make the referral, claimed answers to serious questions were not good enough.

However the healthcare professionals argue the council will not be satisfied with any sharing of services and have no answers over how it would solve the problems of staff shortages and financial pressures.

Councillor Bernard Arscott, chairman of the council’s joint health overview and scrutiny committee, claimed the failure to get straight answers from those in charge of healthcare changes was “disappointing”.

He said: “I’d have liked to have had the information we asked for but the fact it wasn’t there meant we were still none the wiser.

“If it we were given it we may not be where we are today.”

Under the scheme patients would be taken to their nearest hospital first and then transferred to the relevant specialist hospital however concerns were raised about how patients will be transferred.

Tom Abell, chief transformation officer and deputy chief executive of Basildon Hospital, claimed a pilot transport service would be launched, which could be provided by the East of England Ambulance Service or St John Ambulance.

He added a command centre would assess the availability of beds before transfers are made which he hoped would address concerns.