PATIENTS have been struggling to get through to book an appointment for blood tests at Southend Hospital for several days.

The hospital is due to announce details of plans to join together with Basildon Hospital to contract its pathology service out to a private company today.

But concerns have been raised that it is currently impossible to get through to Southend Hospital to book an appointment at the moment, with patients just being met by an engaged tone.

Historian Arthur Woodward, 72, of Bournemouth Park Road, regularly has tests to check he can take the medication he needs following a stroke.

He said: “I’ve been trying to get through but the number is constantly engaged. I tried about five times.

“It’s not due for three months so I’m not too worried, but there must be other people who need it more urgently.”

Another patient, 81, from Canvey, has been unable to make an appointment since Friday.

The patient who asked not to be named, has been having regular tests since she had a brain haemorrhage a few years ago.

She said: “I went to the doctor on Friday morning because I’ve not been feeling very good, I’ve been trying to get through since then but can’t get through.

“I eventually phoned the main switchboard and they said everyone is having the problem at the moment and have been since last week.”

A hospital spokeswoman said: “We’re sorry patients were unhappy with our service. Our appointment line can get extremely busy, we’d like to apologise for any delays in getting through.”