Essex hospitals plan to move seriously ill patients
Seriously ill patients face being transferred between three Essex hospitals under plans to create specialist centres, the BBC has found.
Up to 50 patients a day could be moved between Southend, Basildon and Broomfield Hospital near Chelmsford under local NHS transformation plans.
Save Southend NHS said it was concerned about the cost of the plan and the dangers in transferring patients.
The hospitals group said the aim was to best use its staff and resources.
Patients would first go by ambulance to the nearest of the three hospitals, then those with "the most complex needs" would transfer to one of the following specialist centres:
- Basildon (cardiology and strokes)
- Southend (cancer care)
- Broomfield (general surgery)
One source told the BBC about 80% of stroke patients in Southend could be transferred to Basildon Hospital under the scheme.
Doctors at Southend Hospital are said to broadly welcome the principle of specialised centres, but some have concerns over the number of patients being moved between the hospitals.
A surgeon said only the most serious of patients should be transferred to specialist centres and said in the case of strokes that would mean on average up to two patients a day from each hospital being transferred.
However, the surgeon said the numbers could be three or four times that if all suspected stroke patients were sent to Basildon.
Essex clinicians the BBC spoke to do not believe this is feasible and one said of the plans "it could be really good or it could be a disaster" depending on which patients are selected.
Dr Celia Skinner, chief medical officer for the three hospitals, said: "Our proposals aim to bring together some specialist services, for complex needs in that time where once or twice in our lives we need very specialist emergency care or a planned overnight operation.
"We think this will mean that around 15 emergency patients and 15 planned operations will be seen in a different hospital than they are today."
Mike Fieldhouse, secretary of Save Southend NHS, said: "It's difficult to see how these changes are going to achieve these huge spending cuts whilst still maintaining the level of health care to patients."