Campaigners have accused NHS bosses of failing to engage with the public during a consultation over potential changes to major hospitals in mid and south Essex.

Members of Support the NHS Halstead say many people were unaware a public consultation has taken place regarding restructuring of Southend, Basildon and Broomfield hospitals which could see them specialise in certain treatments.

The group has also expressed its displeasure at the way public information sessions were run.

Campaigner Pauline Amos said: “One has to wonder how many people would have known about the events if NHS campaign groups hadn’t posted about the consultation on their Facebook pages and on local community/streetwatch pages.

“The events have been managed to reduce not encourage proper consultation.

“Much of the time was taken up with a presentation of the acute reconfiguration plans, which automatically demonstrates an assumption that people had not read the consultation documents.

“Then only one or, occasionally two, questions were taken from each of the tables.”

A spokesman for mid Essex Clinical Commissioning Group which helped run the consultation said the group had done all it could to engage members of the public.

He said: “The consultation and events were widely publicised through the media, including newspapers in Halstead and Braintree.

“This included editorial coverage and paid-for advertisements. The NHS used social media and circulated printed information, including leaflets, posters and consultation documents, to local GP practices, pharmacies, libraries and health centres.

“We also directly contacted patient groups and other interested stakeholder organisations to seek their views and promote the events.

“The event in Braintree was well attended and whilst we are disappointed to learn a few people were unhappy with the format of the event, we had extremely positive feedback from the majority of attendees.”

The Clinical Commissioning Group says all feedback from the public consultation will be independently analysed and all findings will be published in a final report in May.

More will be known about hospital plans following the publication.