THE boss of Southend Hospital says she will expand A&E to cope with the record numbers of patients coming through its doors.

Jacqueline Totterdell, the hospital’s chief executive, said the extra capacity should be in place in time for the busy winter months.

She spoke out after the hospital’s A&E department was branded one of the worst in the country by health watchdog Monitor for failing to regularly meet a target for 95 per cent of patients to be seen within four hours.

Ms Totterdell, who insisted she was the right person for the job, said on Monday 325 patients came through the A&E doors – the biggest number ever.

She said: “We coped OK with Monday’s number of patients, but we do need to increase the capacity of the department.

“We only have 15 cubicles for our majors ward and if, over a two-hour period, 20 ambulances turn up, then we cannot fit them in and treat them. We have concrete plans now for it to be finished by the end of November.”

The extra capacity will be created by moving the A&E referral unit, currently on the same floor as A&E, into vacant wards in the Prittlewell Wing.

The Government target has regularly been met for the past two months, in no small part due to increased staffing levels.

The hospital took on extra GPs in April through the South Essex Emergency Doctors Service, a move Basildon Hospital took 18 months ago.

Ms Totterdell said: “They stream all major patients and minors, they then stream patients that could be seen by their own doctor to an onsite GP.

“We are sending on average 50 to 60 people a day to GPs who would otherwise have been seen in A&E.

“The impact of the extra GPs will soon be assessed and put in place on a more permanent basis.”

An independent review will also soon be conducted by auditors Deloitte into the effectiveness of the board after M o n i t o r highlighted a high turnover of staff as an issue.