A campaign group is urging residents to have their say on proposals which could change the way hospitals are run in Essex.

Support the NHS Halstead held a public meeting at the Bull Inn Hotel, off Bridge Street, to inform people about plans which could see patients forced to travel long distances to receive treatment.

A key proposal could see individual hospitals across Essex specialise in certain areas of treatment meaning patients may have to travel to the specialist centre and not to the nearest hospital.

Dozens of residents attended the public meeting last Thursday to find out more.

Campaigner Pauline Amos said: “Some were aware of what is being proposed but quite a few were genuinely shocked by what they were told and that so many services are now part of the private sector.

“Quite a few weren’t even aware Halstead Hospital is run by Provide.

“There is a lack of awareness about the NHS.

“I think people are aware of the crisis in our hospitals.

“They know hospitals are overwhelmed but very few know why that is.”

Mrs Amos, a retired teacher, is now urging people to get involved in the latest public consultation on the proposals which will come to an end on March 9.

She fears a lack of public engagement could see the proposals approved and leave patients with no choice but to travel long distances to receive healthcare.

She added: “If people don’t find out about the proposals and get involved then they could find themselves in a situation where local healthcare is no longer close to home.

“People in Halstead may have to travel to hospitals in Southend or Basildon for treatment or to see relatives staying in those hospitals.

"There’s the cost of parking and petrol to consider as well as the time it takes to travel there.”

For more information about the proposals or to have your say, visit nhsmidandsouthessex.