PATIENTS will see the benefit of more than £10million of investment into blood testing services at Basildon and Southend hospitals, bosses claim.

For the first time, management at both hospitals spoke yesterday about plans to join with a private company to run pathology services.

Integrated Pathology Partnerships (IPP) will invest money to builda state-of-the-art blood and tissue testing centre for non-urgent cases at a yet-tobe- identified site between Southend and Basildon.

It will also build pathology departments at both hospitals.

Fears had been raised over the use of a private firm within the NHS as only last year plans emerged to move blood testing analysis from local sites to Bedford.

However, Jacqueline Totterdell, chief executive of Southend Hospital and her Basildon counterpart Clare Panniker, said patients would see the benefits of the deal.

Jacqueline Totterdell said: “The savings we make from this will mean we can invest money into other services at the hospital.

It is not about cost-cutting.”

Clare Panniker said: “Bringing in a private sector partner allowed the trusts the best of both worlds – investment to transform our service, yet retaining NHS clinical leadership and a local service.”

Patients requiring a quick result will still have their blood or tissue analysed at the hospitals.

Those who don’t need a result urgently, including many outpatients, should still get the result on the same day, but the testing will be done at the new centre.

Medical staff will continue to make clinical decisions in the service.

Mark Magrath, commercial director at Basildon Hospital, said: “It will make it more efficient and help free up analysis at the hospitals for urgent tests and they won’t be competing with the non-urgent samples.”

Health bosses confirmed patients will not have to travel to different centres for blood testing.

There are no plans to change this in the short term, although it wouldn’t be ruled out in future.

Mr Magrath explained the plan came about as part of a national strategy to save £500million from pathology services – which is where the controversial proposal to move services to Bedford last year came from.

He said: “Thanks to the good work of the Echo and other stakeholders, we managed to get that stopped.

“When we met with Basildon and Brentwood Clinical Commissioning Group later it said it wanted to keep the service more local, but at a lower price.”

After a three company bidding process, IPP was announced as their preferred partner.

The contract is yet to be signed, but it is hoped to open the new centre in 2015.

Stuart Quin, chief executive of IPP, said: “We look forward to working closely with the pathology teams from both hospitals to deliver an improved service for patients.”

SOME jobs will be lost under the plan – but it is better than the alternative, management say.

It is not yet known how many of the 200 jobs won’t be needed, or if any redundancies could take place, as staff have their contracts transferred to the new company.

They were told about the plans in a series of meetings at both hospitals yesterday.

Mark Magrath, commercial director at Basildon Hospital, said: “There’s ways of how to do it.

“Basildon and Southend have people in posts who are on temporary contacts.

“When some vacancies have come up, we haven’t replaced them.

“I’m looking at it in terms of how many jobs we’re saving, rather than losing.

“It’s securing the long-term future in south Essex, so this move is saving most of the jobs.”

But Sam Older, from the Unison union, said staff were concerned about their futures.

He said: “It’s a worrying time for staff. As well as losing jobs, there is concern about having staff in the same jobs on three different contracts – some on Southend Hospital terms, some Basildon Hospital terms and some on IPP’s.”