POLITICIANS often promise to wave their magic wands to improve people's lives.

But when young Rochford councillor James Cottis talks about performing magic tricks, he means it.

The amateur magician has returned from a conference in Las Vegas with an idea for helping hospital patients and people with disabilities get better by teaching them simple magic tricks.

Mr Cottis, 25, is keen to introduce Project Magic to hospitals across south Essex, including Basildon and Southend, which would see local magicians visit wards teaching patients magic.

The scheme was founded by high-profile American magician David Copperfield and has run for 20 years, primarily in the United States, but also in China, Australia and Eastern Europe.

Mr Cottis said: "The project aims to help those with learning difficulties and injuries. The tricks will motivate them and help them to use their hands again after accidents.

"It's a form of rehabilitation. I got involved because I wanted to use my skills as an amateur magician to help those with learning and motivation problems.

"As part of local group, Southend Sorcerors, I know of plenty of magicians who would like to get involved.

"The scheme has been very successful in America."

During his time in Las Vegas, Mr Cottis also met magician David Blaine.

Mr Cottis said: "I was fortunate enough to meet him and I asked whether it would be possible for him to perform his next stunt in Rochford. He said he would certainly be in touch."

Ros Mortis, a spokeswoman for Southend Hospital, said: "It sounds an interesting idea and we are happy to consider anything demonstrated as beneficial to our patients.

"However, we are scrupulous about who we allow into our wards due to the risk of infections."