NHS funding to reshape health care in Essex, totalling £118million, could be frozen for months and even lost, it has emerged.

Southend Hospital bosses have expressed their disappointment with Southend Council’s threat to refer revamp plans, to overhaul healthcare in mid and south Essex, to the health secretary.

This in turn would freeze the cash - and prevent initial work being carried out.

The council insists the plans are poorly thought out and patients could suffer.

The Mid and South Essex Sustainability and Transformation Partnership plans include merging Southend, Basildon and Broomfield hospitals.

These would each offer emergency and specialist services, with patients treated initially at their nearest hospital and then transferred to whichever hospital has been chosen to deal with their type of condition.

However, a council committee says there is little detail on how this will be accomplished, saying workforce, finance and transport plans are unclear.

Southend councillor Bernard Arscott, chairman of the joint health and overview scrutiny committee, said: “The STP can’t implement the proposals while there is any suggestion of a referral.

“Access to £118million for draw down on the whole deal would be on hold.

“It could hold it up for months.

“Such a delay would an impact on the viability of the proposals going forward. “They are reliant on having that £118million. There have been assurances they will be ring-fenced, but there is a possibility we could lose the money that has been earmarked.”

Alan Tobias, chairman of Southend University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust said: “It is disappointing that Southend Council has asked its scrutiny committee to consider referral at this late stage despite us having regular dialogue with them.

“Until we know the outcome of that decision we cannot fully progress our plans to gain access to the £118 million of investment which is frustrating.

“We have committed that we will continue to explain and update as our plans progress. This is right and proper. But delays such as this not only use up scarce public money, but more importantly impact on patient care.”

Mr Tobias added: “We recognise changes to NHS services can cause concerns, even when changes are driven by clinicians to improve care for our local residents. That’s why we made sure our plans were open to a great deal of public scrutiny. This included the opportunity for everyone to have their say during a public consultation which ran for 16 weeks.

“Councillors also scrutinised and challenged our plans during this time. This all took place before the final recommendations were agreed by the NHS in July and we now want to move forward.”