CAMPAIGNERS have spoken of their anger after plans for a private blood testing centre serving the NHS in south Essex were approved.

Southend Keep Our NHS Public spoke out after the Echo revealed private firm Integrated Pathology Partnerships will take over the non-emergency blood testing contract from Southend and Basildon hospitals next year.

It comes after Basildon Council gave the firm planning permission to develop a blood test laboratory to serve both trusts in Bentalls, Basildon.

The plan to keep blood testing in south Essex came after a plan to transfer non-emergency blood testing 80 miles away to Bedford collapsed following an Echo campaign.

Norman Traub, secretary of the Southend branch of the campaign group, said: “Pathology staff at both Southend and Basildon hospitals will be transferred to Integrated Pathology Services.

“A poorer service, cuts in staff and less rewarding contracts to staff recruited in the future, as compared to the existing contracts for the former NHS staff, can be expected from private companies seeking to increase profits for their shareholders.

“The standards of pathology services in the NHS being run at present by private companies have deteriorated.

“The diversion of funds for NHS services to private companies further destabilises the finances of hospitals dependent on revenue earned from the NHS.”

He claimed 70 per cent of the contracts for NHS services awarded in England between April and December 2013 went to private companies.

He added: “The privatisation of the NHS set out in the Health and Social Care Act passed by the Government in 2012 is being vigorously pursued by the Department of Health.

“Together with flatlining of the budget for the NHS for the past four years, with a ten-year flatline planned for 2021 by Chancellor George Osborne, the NHS is being throttled.”

Both hospitals claim private involvement of non-emergency tests will help them reduce costs and improve the service.