SOUTHEND councillors have grilled key figures in plans to move blood testing services away from local hospitals.

Paul Husselbee, the accountable officer for the Southend clinical commissioning group and co-chairman of the project board which wants to send GP requested pathology tests to Bedford Hospital for testing defended the move to councillors alongside Andrew Pike, chief executive of NHS Essex.

Dr Husselbee told Southend Council’s community services and culture scrutiny committee the move would allow more tests to be carried out, allow better IT communication between health professionals and more research and development to take place. He also said it would be more cost effective to send tests to a regional hub and would be more cost effective.

He said: “We are fully aware of the level of anxiety among the public and the concerns expressed by consultant and GP colleagues.”

The committee remained unconvinced however, with a number of councillors calling on the CCG to give assurances on the safety of the scheme, the turnaround time for tests, transport difficulties, financial savings and job losses.

While the committee had the power to refer the proposal to the Secretary of State for Health, they resolved to call on the CCG to return in March to answer a number of concerns, including  risk assessments on the proposals, particularly in view of the concerns of local health professionals, the impact on Southend hospital and contingency arrangements in the event of major problems.