COMMUNITY hospital beds could remain outside of Thurrock during the winter period, under plans for a reshuffle aimed at dealing with a surge in demand during the winter.
The majority of Thurrock’s beds were moved from the Mayfield ward at Thurrock Community Hospital in April and placed at the Brentwood Community Hospital in order to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic.
Health authorities now need to assess how many of those beds, which are typically used for rehabilitation, will be returned to the borough in preparation for what council papers describe as a “surge over the winter period”.
Papers published ahead of a Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting next week indicate that they may all may remain outside of the borough throughout winter.
The papers state: “There has been a significant benefit of the increased medical input in the community hospitals, particularly overnight and this has meant a reduction of 13 per cent in the number of patients being readmitted to the acute hospital.
“It is acknowledged that staff who worked at Mayfield when it was in Thurrock have all transferred to working from Brentwood.
“Their support has been greatly appreciated during this time. They have been supported with travel where required and this would continue if the decision is for Mayfield to remain at Brentwood Community Hospital for the winter period.”
Labour councillor Victoria Holloway, former chair of the Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee, said she intends to watch the situation closely but will not accept a long-term reduction in hospital beds in Thurrock.
She said: “During the pandemic there needed to be a move around of beds and as a result the Mayfield ward was moved.
“In normal times this would not have happened but with Covid-19, the NHS wanted it to best support the county’s needs.
“But I have been clear that no services, be it beds due to Covid-19, Orsett Hospital or whatever other health and medical provision, no service should ever be permanently be moved out of Thurrock.
“The same applies to this ward. It is unacceptable for a ward to be removed.
“We are still in the pandemic and if the NHS have decided they need to hold this pattern for a bit longer that is decision but I will be closely looking at.”
The council papers explain that the beds were moved at the start of the pandemic to “focus available staffing resource onto two central sites for the 1.2million population of Mid and South Essex” and support as many people as possible.
They add: “Staffing is the greatest risk there is to being able to cope with the anticipated demand and whatever sites are decided upon for the beds, we cannot open them if the staff are not in place.”