PLANS to move some of south Essex’s blood testing to Bedford are now unlikely ever to go ahead, NHS managers have finally confirmed.

The Echo launched a campaign against the move late last year, with the backing of 19,869 readers who signed our petition, 120 hospital consultants and more than 90 GPs.

Concerns were raised about likely delays in receiving tests results if samples of non-urgent, GP-requested blood and other samples had to be taken by road to Bedford Hospital.

The hospital, 90 miles away, was one of a consortium of hospitals under Consolidated Pathology Services which the regional health authority planned to use.

In March, we claimed victory, when Southend hospital laboratory staff were told their jobs were safe because a deal was being discussed to keep a blood testing centre in south Essex.

Now the GPs responsible for buying south Essex’s health services have confirmed they are considering going a step further and not signing any kind of deal with the consortium.

Dr Paul Husselbee, clinical chief officer of the area’s GPs’ organisation, the Southend Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “The bid offered a chance to centralise some services and that opened up the possibility of substantial savings.

However, we were uncertain about some of the operational details and a great many people locally were very concerned about this.

“We investigated some variations in the proposals, including the possibility of a centre in south Essex, and we set out conditions upon which we would consider a contract with the new service.

“After further work with the preferred bidder, we have concluded it is unlikely we could have a service that would satisfy fully our requirements.”

Further talks about testing are said to be going on with Southend and Basildon hospitals.

Dr Husselbee stressed his group was still considering whether the consortium could meet local needs, and also the disadvantages of withdrawing from a deal with it.

He added: “Rest assured, any decision will be driven by evidence and the best interests of our patients.”

The commissioning group has written to local GPs, hospital staff and others with the latest news.

One, who asked not to be named, said: “This is great news and shows they are finally listening to our concerns."