BOSSES behind the biggest hospitals shake-up in a generation insist their plans will improve patient care and create a sustainable NHS for the future.

Tom Abell, chief transformation officer and deputy chief executive of Basildon Hospital, spoke out after Southend Council sent the controversial plan to the Health Secretary for a review.

Mr Abell said Southend Council’s move potentially jeopardises £118million in funding for the NHS in mid and south Essex.

He also stressed the proposals put forward were designed to improve healthcare for all patients across mid and south Essex.

He said: “It was never about cutting services or reducing services.”

Mr Abell fears the decision by Southend Council to delay the shake-up of hospital care by referring it to the Health Secretary could cause serious problems for patients.

He added: “This stops all the changes planned by the joint clinical commissioning group and that decision covers the whole of mid and south Essex

“It puts a stop to all of those changes until we have a result from the Secretary of State.”

The plan aimed to boost the NHS workforce because GPs and hospitals are short of staff and struggling to recruit the consultants, doctors and nurses needed to treat people.

Mr Abell said: “None of our proposals are about money, it is about better organised care so we can respond to bigger challenges in future and fill gaps in our workforce.”

The healthcare plan involves centralising some services at Southend, Basildon and Broomfield hospitals - including moving some stroke services to Basildon.

Each hospital would have specialist centres with patients first treated at their nearest hospital and then transferred to the most appropriate specialist centre.

Mr Abell said the proposal to centralise stroke services in Basildon rather than Southend, which was one of the controversial proposals, was based on co-locating it with Basildon’s vascular unit.

He said the move was proposed to save the more lives, adding Basildon Hospital was the best place for the unit and would benefit the largest number of stroke victims.

Mr Abell fears the delay will, at best, freeze £118million in much-needed funding and prevent the region from addressing the significant problems hospital and GP services are facing.

The Health Secretary will now have to decide whether to respond to the council himself or send the referral to an independent review panel.

This could lead to new recommendations, amendments or even a complete redraft.

Mr Abell claimed whatever is suggested, councillors in Southend will “never be satisfied” with any services being transferred elsewhere.

He said: “I’m puzzled by the questions over the treat and transfer model as we have had discussions with the joint overview and scrutiny committee about the types of vehicles we would use, the staffing of the vehicles and some of the models where it has been used elsewhere in the country.

“I’m not sure how much clearer we could have been as I’ve spoken about treat and transfer at meetings and we continue to do that and publish information but ultimately if someone doesn’t want to be satisfied they never will be.”