Basildon, Southend and Broomfield hospitals back merger plans

Southend Hospital. Picture: EASTNEWS/PETER LAWSON

Southend Hospital. Picture: EASTNEWS/PETER LAWSON - Credit: Peter Lawson/Eastnews

Plans to merge three hospitals in Essex have been given the green light.

Broomfield Hospital. Picture: ANDREW PARSONS

Broomfield Hospital. Picture: ANDREW PARSONS - Credit: PA

The boards of Basildon, Southend and Broomfield hospitals have agreed to formally start the process.

If it goes ahead, the trusts will start working as a single organisation by April 2019.

Mike Fieldhouse, secretary for Save Southend NHS, said the campaign opposed the merger.

“We think it could be sounding the death knell for local hospital services,” he added.

The board’s decision to publicly back the plans “makes a mockery of the public consultation”, which is due to end in March, Mr Fieldhouse said.

Save Southend NHS fears the merger will see services removed from certain hospitals, which could mean patients have to travel long distances for care.

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Mr Fieldhouse said: “The hospitals are talking about putting on their own bus service but it’s still a lot of extra time and travelling getting to your appointment.

“What would have been a couple of hours could involve a day’s expedition across Essex and you are talking about unwell people.”

There is 22 miles between Broomfield and Southend hospitals.

The joint trust would serve more than 1.1 million people across Essex and employ more than 14,000 members of staff.

The three hospitals have been working in collaboration since Spring 2016 and have a joint executive team.

Clare Panniker, chief executive of Basildon, Southend and Broomfield, said: “Working together formally in the longer term is crucial to help us to deliver and secure safe and high quality services across all three of our hospitals.

“This about ensuring together we can make the most of the resources, the skills and the expertise we have available us.

“The decision [on Wednesday] is just the start of the process. We are committed to demonstrating how this gives something better for patients in mid and south Essex and there will be lots of opportunity going forward to engage more fully with local people.”

Within board papers, leaders have identified a number of risks with starting the merger process. These include detrimental impact on the operational performance of the hospitals, and “unacceptable financial pressure” on the trusts.

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