A pharmacy service for some of the borough's rural residents is once again under threat. Health bosses have appealed against a decision not to axe the local service.

The dispensing chemist at the Outings Lane Surgery, in Outings Lane, Doddinghurst, was marked for closure in January this year, after chiefs at the Brentwood, Billericay and Wickford Primary Care Trust (PCT) carried out a review of local facilities.

They decided the village and surrounding areas, including Kelvedon Hatch, should be reclassified from a rural to urban area, placing the chemist service at the surgery under threat.

But, after the recommendation was published in a report, it provoked an outcry from villagers and councillors. The primary care trust then decided to keep the area's rural classification, saving the pharmacy from closure.

Now, the service has once again been placed in jeopardy, after the Essex Local Pharmaceutical Committee appealed against the trust's decision.

Derek Hardy, Lib Dem borough councillor for Brizes & Doddinghurst, said residents in several of the surrounding villages, including Blackmore, Kelvedon Hatch and Stondon Massey, relied on the dispensing service.

"The PCT created both expense and confusion in raising this issue in the first place," he said.

"Doddinghurst is obviously a rural village and always has been. The doctor's dispensary serves a wide rural area and is vital to the wellbeing of local residents.

"The PCT's decision to let things remain as they are is just plain common sense. I hope it will defend its decision with vigour at the coming appeal."

A spokesman for Brentwood, Billericay and Wickford PCT said the initial report making the recommendations suffered problems with "the way data had been collected and analysed".

The Litigation Authority will decide whether the appeal will be heard via written judgement or at a public hearing.