Concerns Southend residents may miss out on best treatment 

Southend residents could miss out on the best treatment when a new NHS diagnostic centre opens in Pitsea, a councillor fears.

The Mid and South Essex Integrated Care Partnership has secured funding for a state-of-the-art diagnostic centre in Pitsea which could be built on the site of a leisure centre next to The Range at Pitsea Retail Park.

Lydia Hyde, Labour councillor for Southend’s St Laurence ward, took to social media to air her concerns for Southend patients.

She said: “While I welcome this new centre for the residents of Basildon, I am concerned that this is being seen as the solution for Southend.

“It is hugely disappointing that Southend was ruled out for its own centre, especially when there is a particular need in the east of the city. Travelling to Pitsea will be impractical for many people.

“While Southend Hospital will retain its current diagnostic services, these will pale in comparison to the services at the Pitsea site, and there is a further concern that staff will be drawn away from Southend Hospital to serve in the new centre.

“We must be vigilant to any future suggestions of downgrading Southend diagnostic services and any attempts to force patients to make the journey to Pitsea.”

Owen Richards, chief officer at Healthwatch Southend, also had some reservations. He said: “Healthwatch Southend welcomes any moves to make it easier for Mid & South Essex residents to have diagnostic tests. We would however be very concerned if patients were having to travel to Pitsea, at a time when the cost of living is increasing.

“As co-opted members of Southend’s People Scrutiny Committee, we heard the reassurances from Mid & South Essex Hospitals that the Pitsea development would not lead to less capacity at Southend Hospital. Some Southend residents may even find it easier to access Pitsea when it opens.

“We understand that the hospital trust is also looking to see whether it is possible to develop further local diagnostic capacity for Southend residents, which we would support.”

Jonathan Dunk, Chief Commercial Officer for Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Southend Hospital will continue to provide the full range of diagnostic services that are currently on offer to residents. There are three new approved community diagnostic centres which provide additional testing capacity, which is good news for patients. They will have a choice of where to go for their tests, based on convenience and or speed of access to appointments.

“We have a recruitment and workforce plan in place to ensure that we can staff all of our diagnostic facilities.  Recruitment is already underway for the community diagnostic centres.

“The trust is in talks with the Integrated Care Board and national teams around creating further local diagnostic capacity in Southend.”

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter