MEDICAL services in south Essex could be at risk following the decision to refer a major health transformation plans to the secretary of state, it is feared.

The biggest changes in primary and hospital care in decades has been proposed by the joint group of health bodies in charge of services in south and mid Essex.

The plans included closing Orsett Hospital and having four medical centres and changing the way services are run at Southend, Basildon and Broomfield Hospital from all-purpose to shared services.

After first Southend Council called in the plans amid concerns - and then Thurrock Council also raised issues - the plans are put on hold and could be in danger.

A new report by the Thurrock clinical commissioning group suggested the centre in Tilbury could be “scaled down” due to questions over finance and services.

The report adds: “The Purfleet centre is in a similar position to the Tilbury site in that an agreement is still needed on the size of the site, the services to be delivered from it and whether or not it will be affordable.

"At the current time it is not clear who will develop the site.”

It concludes until decisions have been made it will be “very difficult to progress the programme further”.

Councillor James Halden has attempted to address the issue.

He said: “Concerns have been expressed regarding reports there is a cost viability issue with the medical centres.

"This is not the case. Because of the call-in of the decision regarding Orsett Hospital we cannot properly go through the process of saying how much revenue will go to each medical centre to repay the cost of borrowing.

"We can’t predicate the decision on services decanting from Orsett into the medical centres because that decision is paused.

“I would say for members of the public who are expecting us to deliver £70million of new health estate it is very disappointing that the decision about Orsett was published in June and it has taken until December to call it in.”

Concerns about the plans from Southend Council included the loss of a stroke unit with some services being shared between hospitals under the plan.