Trustees of Braintree Community Hospital will not accept any more excuses from the management over its running of the facility.

Members of The Friends of Braintree Community Hospital and concerned residents had the chance to grill bosses from Mid Essex Hospitals Trust (MEHT) and Mid Essex Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) at the Friends’ annual general meeting.

Questions inevitably turned to Home First proposals, under which beds in the Courtauld Ward will be repurposed for orthopaedic operations for residents across mid and south Essex.

Professor Christopher Green, chairman of The Friends of Braintree Community Hospital, said: “There was a lot of concerns raised about the plans and particularly the timetable for it, whether the staff were available and if dealing with elderly patients at home was a good idea.

“There was frustration expressed about the lack of a strategic plan for the hospital.

“We believe they have taken their eye off the ball and are more concerned about possible mergers.”

More than 60 interested residents attended the meeting, and grilled hospital bosses on the future of the important community facility, which opened in 2010.

Professor Green said: “We believe the problems are partly due to budget cuts and partly down to the changes with the Success Regime.

“We are not prepared to accept the fact that the recent flu outbreak, or the weather causing more accidents is a good enough reason for the problems.

“I have said before I do not think that the current management of the hospital is fit for purpose, and I have seen nothing to change my mind on that so far.

“They have acknowledged the fact there are problems, but there is a long way to go to convince us they are sorting them.”

A spokesman for MEHT and the CCG said all parties were committed to ensuring the facility works as well as possible.

"We have a dedicated and excellent team of doctors and nurses working extremely hard across the hospitals to deliver excellent care and a dedicated point of contact was now set up with the Friends," he said.

“The NHS as a whole has experienced an unprecedented surge in demand nationally for urgent care and was advised to reduce the number of non-urgent, or ‘elective’ operations.

"We appreciate this led to inconvenience and anxiety for patients and their relatives managing debilitating conditions but we have been working as hard as we can as a system to resolve some of these issues.

“Discussions at the annual general meeting and earlier discussions regarding the changes to usage of beds at Braintree would help to mitigate cancellations caused by winter pressures and therefore reduce the impact on patient waiting times.”

Work on the Home First proposals continues, however the groups say a careful monitoring process will make sure it is working correctly when it launches later this year.

The spokesman said the purpose of potential merger of the hospitals was to create "secure high-quality, sustainable services" for Essex and it would continue to involve the Friends in the consultation.