A SOUTHEND Hospital ward will be closed amid claims the trust “doesn’t have staff or funding to safely run it”.

The Mid and South Essex NHS Trust has confirmed the Stambridge ward, used to care for patients with diabetes, will close and services move to the Blenheim ward.

Trust bosses have insisted “no staff will lose their jobs” and “no staff will have to move site” when the “unfunded” ward closes.

Union Unison said the move would protect patient safety in the short term, but claimed it will “put further strain” on resources.

It comes just six weeks after it was revealed 600 jobs will be wiped from the budget at south Essex hospitals in a bid to tackled a £100million financial black hole.

Unison Eastern regional organiser Sam Older said: “Unfortunately the trust doesn’t have the staff or funding to safely run the Stambridge ward anymore. This may help safeguard patient safety in the short term, but the loss of 27 beds will further strain resources, with occupancy percentage rates in the mid 90s.”

Despite the reassurances from the trust, Save Southend NHS has claimed the changes have not been communicated and have called for more in-depth answers.

A spokesman for the campaign group said: “The latest announced closure of beds at Southend Hospital sparks great concern for both patients and staff.

“In light of lengthy waiting lists, recent recruitment freezes and financial difficulties within the hospital group, our biggest fear is ‘what next?’ “Our local community, patients and staff deserve fully transparent answers.”

According to the trust, the beds in the Stambridge ward were “funded temporarily” to deal with winter demands.

Matthew Hopkins, chief executive of Mid and South Essex NHS Trust, said: “We are continuing with our plans to improve the flow of patients through our hospitals and provide quality care in the most efficient way.

To support this, we are closing beds, including some that are funded temporarily to deal with winter demand at Southend hospital and providing more beds on a different ward.

A hospital spokesman added: “Closing unfunded beds is normal procedure for the NHS and means we are making best use of public money