DOZENS of hospital staff have been officially declared heroes for their dedication in carrying on working when their A&E unit was hit by flash floods.

Southend Hospital has recognised staff who acted quickly, stayed late and helped the department stay open while dealing with two inches of floodwater.

Heavy rain at the end of last month forced so much water through a storm drain at the hospital, in Prittlewell Chase, the pressure pushed open a 2ins thick drain cover, flooding the A&E unit.

Every month the health trust recognises a handful of staff who go beyond the call as Hospital Heroes, but for July it has nominated 44 people who helped save the day.

One of them was emergency planning and liaison officer Paul Hepworth.

He was at home when the flood hit, but phoned in when he realised how bad the weather was. He then headed straight to the hospital to help with the clean-up operation.

He said: “A total of 44 people, from right across all areas of the hospital, were highlighted for their endeavours that day.

“That includes doctors and nurses, emergency department assistants, porters, receptionists, a domestic, clinical site manager and a senior manager who were on call.

“It really summed up the values of the hospital and how we all work together for the patients.

“Despite this unexpected event, our staff remained professional, responsible and above all, caring, in ensuring the safety and wellbeing of all our patients.

“We were all just doing our jobs, but I’m sure I speak for all of us when I say it’s great to be recognised this way.”

Ambulances carrying the sickest patients were temporarily diverted to Basildon Hospital, so Southend could concentrate on patients already there during the clean-up.

Staff carried on working after their shifts ended and as a result, the A&E department was fully functioning again within 90 minutes of the flood.

The department still even managed to meet its Government target of treating 95 per cent of patients within four hours.

A hospital spokesman said: “The actions and quick thinking of all the staff on duty, or who came in that day, were commended and rewarded with the hospital unanimously choosing them all as this month’s Hospital Heroes.

“Two inches of water came into a section of A&E, no small thing, given the drains have 6ft shafts and 2ins-thick lids.

“It only goes to show just how much the water pressure increased within such a short space of time, yet the staff rose to the occasion.”