AS many as 250 staff are being drafted in and new wards and beds introduced to cope with extra demand in Basildon Hospital’s A&E department over the winter.

Hospital bosses say they have robust plans in place after they saw a 7 per cent increase in patients seeking help at A&E last winter, with staff regularly treating 300 patients a day.

However, Clare Panniker, chief executive of the hospital, is confident it is prepared after the pressures of last year, which she described as “pretty unrelenting”.

She said: “I feel we’ve done a lot in order to prepare. We’ve not just left it to chance this year, so I hope it’ll be easier.

“It gives me confidence we’ll cope better.”

A multi-million pound plan to recruit more staff, build a new temporary ward with 55 beds and convert the former intensive care unit with a further 12 beds, was announced in May.

Work is progressing, with the building expected to be ready by December 1. The beds in the former intensive care unit will be ready by the middle of that month.

They will then be staffed by an extra 250 nurses and healthcare assistants who have been taken on to cope with the increased pressure on beds each winter brings.

Of 197 qualified nurses, 150 are from the UK and 47 are in the process of being recruited from Spain.

Mrs Panniker added: “We’ve all been taken a bit by surprise with the success of the recruitment. It goes to show all the issues we’ve had have not put people off.

“By November we should be fully prepared in terms of staff – that’s really encouraging. Not having that terrible staffing crisis gives us a much better chance of providing consistency and quality of care.”

The hospital was also boosted by the Government announcing this week it is to give £2.5million to Basildon to help ease the burden this winter.

Mrs Panniker said the cash will help to fund what has already been put in place, but it won’t all go into the hospital’s coffers.

She said: “There now needs to be a dialogue about how much comes to the hospital and how much goes to support other bits of the system, so they can respond to discharging patients quicker.

“It’s not the first winter we’ve had additional funding, but having committed so much this financial year, it’s encouraging and helpful to get some more money into the system.

“We’ve made a huge investment this year at our own risk, but we just said ‘let’s get on and try it’.”

The hospital is also coming up with new ways to communicate with its workforce and explain the changes it is making.

A pocket size guide to remind hospital staff about what they need to think about on the wards and face-to-face briefings are just
some of the tools being used to promote messages from senior management.

Mrs Panniker said: “They are a very quick guide to things like safeguarding, nursing standards, dealing with patient concerns
and infection control.

“It just reminds people of the sort of things they should be thinking about and it sticks in their heads better.”

Mrs Panniker said new staff joining the hospital ahead of the winter period will also go through an “intense induction”.