A MAN has been arrested after an assualt involving a mystery substance sparked a decontamination alert at Southend Hospital.

A 38-year-old Rochford man was arrested on suspicion of assault after the early morning incident in which the victim was sprayed in the face with an unidentified substance.

Fire crews set up a decontamination unit at Southend Hospital after staff were affected by the substance as they treated the victim early this morning.

Paramedics were called to a South Street, Rochford shortly before 5.30am and took a man to Southend Hospital after he was sprayed in the face by the mystery substance, believed to be pepper spray or gas.

Whilst in the ambulance the man began to suffer effects from the substance and by the time he arrived at the hospital the paramedics had both developed minor symptoms as well.

Following the patient's admission to the Accident and Emergency department eight staff members also showed signs of being affected by the substance.

Around 10 fire crews and a mass decontamination unit raced to the scene at around 6.45am this morning. Once it was established that there was no need for a mass decontamination most units left but two crews remained at the scene until just before 9am.

During the incident the A and E department was closed to new admissions, with ambulances redirected to other hospitals in the area, including Basildon.

For the full story see tomorrow's Echo.