HEALTH bosses have reassured patients and doctors that south Essex blood samples will only be sent 88 miles for testing in Bedford if the standard of service is maintained.

Southend Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) will only agree the government-recommended plan if the scheme is “comparable” to the current service, in which Southend and Basildon hospitals test blood in-house.

The doctors group, which takes over responsibility for the borough’s heath in April, must also be satisfied the speed of results will be “adequate”.

Dr Paul Husselbee, accountable officer for Southend CCG, said: “A contract will not be signed unless we have total confidence and assurance that the new service is fully compliant with required quality standards, financial requirements and other conditions.”

The CCG’s board has agreed to the scheme in principle, but will only sign up if it receives assurances over the standard of the service.

It is waiting for reassurances contingency plans are in place for events like snow or traffic delays, that there will be no financial risk that could affect local health budgets and that all risks have been investigated and mitigated.

If the agreed quality and efficiency standards are not met after the contract is signed, the CCG will be able to withdraw from the service.

Doctors and a patient representative from Southend have been invited to take part in discussions and make sure all conditions are met before a final decision is made.

Katherine Kirk, chairman of NHS South Essex said: “As you can see from the above, there is a significant amount of detail and local assurance needed before our CCGs and PCT Cluster Board can agree to this contract being signed.

“We would like to reassure local residents that there are many notable service and clinical benefits arising from this proposed change in service.

“These include increased opening hours to meet faster the needs of clinicians and their patients, electronic tracking of samples, a rigorous monthly monitoring regime and financial savings.”

Anyone who wants to be involved with the decision making process should email or call 01702 314282.

Anyone with concerns can contact the patient advice and liaison service on 0800 587 9159 or by emailing