Plans to reshape healthcare in south Essex are in jeopardy after Southend councillors agreed to refer them to the Health Secretary.

The move could mean £118million in NHS funding is frozen and the proposals to split treatment between Southend, Basildon and Broomfield hospitals, are put on hold.

Members of Southend’s people and scrutiny committee met last night to discuss the referral and it was agreed the plans are unclear and could endanger patients.

The committee was initially due to vote on whether to refer the plans based on specialised stroke services being centralised in Basildon rather than Southend.

However councillors instead agreed with a more radical amendment by Labour councillors for the whole plan to be challenged.

The amendment described the plan, to initially treat patients at their nearest hospital and then transfer them to whichever hospital specialised in that condition, as inadequate and against the interests of Southend residents.

Independent Councillor Martin Terry called the plans “harmful” to Southend residents and said they have been put forward to “save money” rather than improve patient outcomes.

Labour Councillor Matt Dent said: “The fact is since the beginning of this process the council has been asking questions about how this process will work, in particular the treat and transfer model and it has not stood up to scrutiny.

“We have had information but no hint of how this will function. This is a scrutiny committee and I would argue that having scrutinised these proposals they do not stand up.”

Conservative Councillor Bernard Arscott, who also chairs the Mid and South Essex Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP) scrutiny committee, said: “I am in support of making referral over the stroke unit as that way if we have further concerns at another point we can make another referral. If the secretary of the state does not uphold our full referral and does not endorse our objections, we will be back to square one.”

His comments were echoed by Councillor Denis Garne who abstained from the vote and warned that referring the whole plan will “risk losing everything” if the secretary of state does not agree.

But the vote was to refer and delay the whole plan.