HEALTH chiefs hope to stop Basildon and Thurrock heart patients seeking expensive treatment in London as they try to save £120million over the next five years.

South West Essex Primary Care Trust says it is having to spend millions of pounds more than necessary, because too many cardiac patients from the area are seeking treatment in the capital, where it costs 30 per cent more for treatment than locally.

This is despite the £60million Cardiothoracic Centre at Basildon Hospital being open for three years.

The problem has been identified by the trust as one of three “areas of large spend” which urgently need reducing.

A report to its board of directors said of the cardiac unit: “Basildon is an excellent facility, and needs to be used to a greater degree with less reliance on London.

“For the exact same procedure, costs are up to 30 per cent more for London referrals.”

Since the Government introduced a choice system two years ago, NHS patients have the right to be treated anywhere in the country.

However, the trust believes it should be able to force patients to get treatment at Basildon. The report added: “There is no reason why treatment could not and should not be contained within the region.”

Tom Abell, acting director of commissioning and service integration at NHS South West Essex said: “About 100 patients a year currently receive specialist cardiology care in London.

“We are reminding our GPs, consultants and nurses to ensure their patients are fully informed about the first-class specialist services available much closer to home.

“The Basildon centre offers specialist diagnosis and treatment for people with cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.

“It boasts some of the most modern cardiothoracic treatment facilities in the country.”

Andy Ritchie, lead surgeon and clinical director of cardiothoracic services added: “We have always accepted some people would choose to be treated in London, but I would urge consultants to refer their patients to us.”