A MULTI-MILLION pound project to improve Southend Hospital’s A&E department could negatively impact waiting times, it is feared.

Work on an £8million project is underway with the current phase almost complete but a report prepared for the Mid and South Essex Integrated Care Board’s next meeting suggests outstanding work could have a detrimental impact on patients.

In the report, the trust which runs the hospital says building works within the emergency department have been identified as a “potential risk” to delivering its waiting time targets.

The hospital is already behind its previously set goal of admitting, transferring, or discharging 75 per cent of patients within four hours of turning up at A&E.

Echo: Expansion - Southend's A&E department is being extendedExpansion - Southend's A&E department is being extended (Image: Google)

In the first 11 days of March, the most up to date data available, 64.77 per cent of patients were turned around in these timescales, a slight decline from 64.78 per cent last month.

At Basildon Hospital, meanwhile, 73.18 per cent of patients so far this month have been dealt with within four hours.

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Matthew Hopkins, chief executive of the Mid and South Essex NHS Trust, said: “Our figures show that, despite more people accessing emergency support than we usually expect in March, we have improved our waiting times to be seen in A&E and ambulance handover times.

“This shows that our urgent and emergency care pathway improvements are having a positive impact.”

The trust says the risk was flagged earlier this year in case the ongoing work was delayed.

Last month, blueprints for a two-storey extension were given the green light which hospital bosses say will increase capacity and improve waiting times, but the trust says the risk outlined ahead of the meeting does not relate to this work – which is due to start “imminently”.

At the time, Anna Firth, the Tory MP for Southend West, said she was “delighted to hear the plans for the long-awaited hospital extension have finally been approved”.

The report also warns of the impact industrial action, a rise in Covid and flu cases, hospital leadership, systems, and processes could also impact the trust’s ability to deliver its goals.