Initial discussions have been held to merge the five clinical commissioning groups in south and mid Essex. 

Various commissioning groups have been approached about a potential switch to create a single executive structure, with a view to then forming a single commissioning group in the future. 

A spokesman for the five groups insisted no decisions have been taken, but they are exploring arrangements for "collaborative commissioning". 

However, Thurrock Council fears the loss of local accountability and strong existing partnerships, together with the varying needs and combined size of the five affected areas, mean the proposals are flawed.

Leader of Thurrock Council, Rob Gledhill said: “We understand the need for the NHS and all public sector bodies to work as efficiently as possible, but that should not be to the detriment of residents who rely on the vital services our local CCGs are involved in providing.

“Creating a single CCG responsible for commissioning health services for 1.2milllion people across south and mid Essex would not only be a huge challenge because of the sheer size of the area, but would result in the loss of local accountability and would be a real waste of the excellent local partnerships that have been formed.

“By taking a more centralised approach, we also fear that the different needs of patients and local priorities in the five areas would not be fully taken into account.

“We would strongly urge NHS England to think again about these dreadful proposals to avoid irreparable damage to a health service we are all very proud of.”

A spokesman for the commissioning groups said: “We are exploring arrangements for enhanced collaborative commissioning over the coming months between the five mid and south Essex CCGs, but no decisions have yet been taken.”