£118MILLION plans to transform healthcare in south Essex have been welcomed by MPs and medical experts.

However, Thurrock MP Jackie Doyle-Price said the delay in implementing NHS plans to streamline services after they were referred to the Health Secretary by Southend and Thurrock councils, had been damaging.

She said: “We now have a final decision which means that our local NHS can now get on with delivering the much needed improvements to health services. Let’s remember that these recommendations have been brought forward by local clinicians and medical leaders who know better than any politician how best to deliver health services.

“Services currently delivered at Orsett Hospital will be delivered in much needed brand new medical centres closer to where people live.

“Now that the decision has been made we can get on and deliver them.”

Thanking the NHS leadership for its patience, the MP added: “It has been frustrating to encounter delay when all they want to do is deliver the best possible service to patients.”

Clare Panniker, chief executive of Basildon, Southend and Broomfield hospitals, also welcomed the decision.

She said: “Our plan to reconfigure hospital services will improve care and outcomes for over 1.2 million people who live in mid and south Essex.

“So I am delighted that the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care has advised that we should press ahead with our plans to reconfigure our services.

“We know that making the changes set out in our plans will improve patient outcomes and help us achieve compliance with national service standards and we can now plan for implementation of our first stage of changes this autumn with confidence.”

Ms Panniker confirmed these include moving emergency vascular surgery to Basildon Hospital and spinal surgery from Basildon to Southend Hospital.

Those on the waiting list for hip or knee operations will be given the option of being treated at Braintree Community Hospital and emergency out-of-hours interventional radiology services will be based at Basildon Hospital.

She added: “We believe this advice is an endorsement of the excellent work of our staff from every discipline over the past years in designing and assuring new sustainable and high quality clinical services for the people of mid and south Essex.”

Not everyone was impressed with the failure of he referral however.

Southend Labour group spokeswoman, Ashley Dalton, said: “It is unacceptable for the Health Secretary of State to simply dismiss out of hand the very real and valid concerns people in this community have raised over the future of their local hospital services.

“Rightly, the decision to downgrade Southend A&E has been scrapped, but local people are still opposed to the plan to move stroke services to Basildon Hospital.”

Matt Dent, Labour councillor for Kursaal ward, said: “We are extremely disappointed with this decision and plan to oppose it every step of the way.

“We stand by our belief that the consultation was botched from start to finish, marred by poorly organised and inaccessible public events.” Work on the specific details is still being carried out with the money expected to arrive in the new year.