Campaigners have launched a petition against a proposed merger between three south Essex Hospitals.

The Echo revealed Southend, Basildon and Broomfield hospitals are poised to rubber stamp plans to operate under one trust.

The move has angered those who see wide ranging changes under the Mid and South Essex Success Regime as a bid to downgrade Southend Hospital.

The petition by the Save Southend NHS Group calls on MPs to urge the rejection of the merger plans.

The group said: “Save Southend NHS are very much opposed to the merger of the three hospitals. This would inevitably lead to a reduction in the number of services available locally to patients plus the potential implications for staff contracts, conditions and pay are huge too.

“We want to see a fully operational General Hospital kept at each site and not one hospital with three sites. If a merger happens we have no doubt that individual specialist services will be concentrated on one site.”

The group successfully fought plans to have one specialist blue light A&E at Basildon with the downgrading of the other two emergency departments.

The group added: “In all likelihood NHS England would create an A&E ‘super-centre’ at Basildon and downgrade Southend and Broomfield to walk-in centres; exactly what we and the vast majority of local residents have been fighting so hard to resist.”

Norman Traub, a former haematology consultant at Southend Hospital and spokesman for the Southend Keep the NHS Public campaign group said: “We are in total agreement with the petition. There is no doubt Southend Hospital is being downgraded. It will only carry out elective surgery under the new plans for instance. That means if you need your appendix out you will have to travel to another hospital. They also plan to transfer patients with grave respiratory problems which is highly dangerous.”