A COMMUNITY health group has welcomed confirmation of a merger between mid and south Essex hospitals but warns signage for the main health facility in Braintree must improve as it prepares to welcome more patients from outside the district.

Braintree Community Hospital will soon be the place to go for people requiring orthopaedic surgery after Health Secretary Matt Hancock approved plans which will see a number of hospitals in the county offer specialist services.

Under the merger, Broomfield, Basildon and Southend Hospital will all retain their A&E departments but will each offer different treatment in specialist areas.

Any patients wanting hip or knee surgery in mid or south Essex will have the option of going to Braintree Community Hospital, which will specialise in orthopaedic surgery.

With the merger given the go-ahead, Friends of Braintree Hospital have reignited their long-running campaign to improve signage for the hospital, both in the town and major A roads surrounding it.

Chairman Chris Green said: "It's good to see Braintree Hospital is mentioned in the first phase of the merger for its use for orthopaedic surgery. People will be travelling long distances to get to Braintree Hospital so we need to see more signs put in place telling people where it is.

"You see all these yellow signs for new developments in Braintree but there is very little for the hospital.

"Yes this merger will take a while to be put in place but it's important to get proper signage now because a lot of people have outpatient appointments at the hospital and travel from outside the district.

"There are no signs on the major roads. There is nothing whatsoever on the A120 coming from Stansted or from Marks Tey."

Mr Green added: "We have been told an audit has been done or road signage and designs were drawn up but no funding is available.

"How much does it cost to put up a few signs pointing which direction the hospital is?

"They put signs up for the small hamlet Surrex a few years ago so if that got signs, why can't something as important as a hospital have some on the A120?"

A Essex Highways spokesman said: "Unfortunately appropriate signage was not originally included in NHS plans for construction of the new community hospital in Braintree.

“Essex Highways has since carried out a review of the signs required and a plan has been developed.

“This will include installing several signs at each relevant location at the same time to maximise efficiency in terms of costs and the resources required.

“Signs on the A120 will be funded by Essex Highways, but managed by Highways England who have responsibility for this particular road.

“This installation will require traffic management, with works done at night to avoid disruption.

“Final cost estimates and funding sources are currently being investigated.”