STAFF parking could be cut at hospitals across south Essex with doctors and nurses asked to use public transport instead.

Talks are understood to be taking place, including with staff and unions, about improving patient access to spaces as part of merger plans which could more than double the number of patients transferred between Southend, Basildon and Broomfield Hospital.

Those running the hospitals have confirmed parking policies are “currently being reviewed” but no final decisions have been made.

A transport committee was set up to examine transport needs if hospital services are merged.

Under the plans patients could receive initial treatment at the nearest hospital and then be moved to a specialist centre in the area where appropriate.

It is estimated this could increase the number of “treat and transfer” patients per day from 14 to 29.

As part of the plans staff may also have to travel further, with administrative services already being centralised in Southend.

Plans for a shuttle service are understood to have been ditched.

The CareCars service in Southend run by volunteers, is one option for patients and visitors to get to specialist hospitals out of their area.

The service costs an average of 50p per mile.

Freddie Dawkins, a member of the committee said: “People pay 50p per mile but added on to this is the journey distance from driver to pick up/drop off.

“From Southend to Basildon costs roughly £20 for the single journey.”

Chris Gasper, patient chairman of transport working group said; “ As a group we have made a number of suggestions to help improve access for the public to the three hospitals.

“These have ranged from making better information on transport options available both online and in person through to how to claim back travel costs for those on low incomes.

“We were pleased to have an update from the hospital group on how they are taking these suggestions forward to support patients to travel to and from hospital both currently and once any changes are made.

“The transport group also discussed a number of ways to now gain wider input into transport issues through existing patient involvement networks as the hospital plans begin to be introduced.” Day and night parking charges are also being discussed.