PATIENTS are demanding ongoing problems getting GP appointments and hospital referrals are resolved as part of £118million improvements.

As health authorities prepare for the south and mid Essex NHS transformation, hundreds of patients revealed what they want to see.

Healthwatch Essex, Southend and Thurrock conducted the survey with the support of the organisation leading the hospital merger between Southend, Basildon, Broomfield and Thurrock Hospitals.

The main concerns among 872 respondents was a difficulty in obtaining a GP appointment and dissatisfaction with waiting times.

A lack of communication, both between doctors and with their patients, was another major problem highlighted in the survey, along with waits for GP referrals to see consultants.

Addressing the concerns raised in the survey, Tom Abell, deputy chief executive of Basildon, Southend and Broomfield Hospitals, said: “The whole purpose of integrated centres is to improve access to GP appointments, community services, public health services and services we provide from hospitals alongside social care and the voluntary sector so they are directly responding to issues Healthwatch have raised.

“We need to get doctors and consultants communicating better.

“That has been a challenge historically. We’re working with GPs, community services on people with long-term diseases like heart and respiratory diseases.

“There are a number of shared care arrangements so they don’t feel like they will be bounced around the system.

“There will also be a trial of new technology that will allow us to do that. People will be able to access their health records via the internet.”

Mr Abell added: “A big part of all these changes is how we split emergency and non-emergency services. We have to make sure we have less cancellations and have referrals within a reasonable time.

“We will have locally dedicated planned surgery so emergency surgery doesn’t impact that.

"Non-urgent patients should have their operation within 18 weeks of referral from a GP to hospital but in many incidents we’re taking much longer to get patients seen and treated. We will have to work to redress waiting lists in the coming years.”

The closure of Orsett Hospital overshadowed responses from residents in Thurrock and residents across the areas worried about transport and parking problems.

The partnership this week got the go-ahead from Health Secretary Matt Hancock for a radical overhaul of healthcare.

The plans include changing all encompassing hospitals into specialist centres.

Basildon Hospital is set to be the specialist centre fort he hyper acute stroke unit and cardiothoracic centre, the cancer centre at Southend and a burns and plastic surgery unit at Broomfield.

Addressing concerns over the closure of Orsett Hospital, Mr Abell said a Thurrock consultation originally found Orsett Hospital not fit for purpose.

A proposal for a one-stop-shop where patients could access a range of services also proved problematic. As a result Mr Abell said a range of centres are in the pipeline.

Claire Hankey, spokeswoman for the Mid and South Essex Sustainability and Transformation Partnership, said: “Understanding the views of our population will help us to further explore ideas such as the smarter use of technology, providing care in different settings and supporting the partnership to reduce health inequalities.”