Concern community beds plan could leave patients isolated

Moving frail elderly patients and stroke victims away from south Essex Hospitals and to specialised units across the county could leave them isolated and vulnerable, councillors fear.

The Mid and South Essex Hospital Trust gave Southend Council’s people scrutiny committee an update on a proposed reconfiguration of community beds on Tuesday, ahead of the launch of a public consultation next year.

Two wards caring for frail, elderly people during the pandemic were moved from Basildon Hospital to Brentwood Community Hospital to free up beds and could remain there under the new plans.

Across Essex 115 community beds cater for people who have been discharged from hospital but are still not well enough to go home.

Over the last 18 months, units in Billericay, Brentwood, Halstead, Maldon, Rochford and Thurrock have cared for an average of 200 people per month.

The consultation will look at whether specialist units should be created to cater for specific needs such as stroke rehabilitation.

However, James Courtenay, Conservative councillor for Chalkwell ward said: “I understand the process of looking at this as a slightly bigger area. My concern is what protection, if any, is there for these types of beds moving away from the area?

“What is Brentwood’s and Thurrock’s gain will be Southend’s loss.”

Southend’s former award winning stroke unit was moved to Basildon under the merger of Southend, Basildon and Broomfield hospitals to form the trust. Southend was left with a stroke rehabilitation unit.

John Lamb, Conservative councillor for West Leigh ward said: “Is Brentwood going to become a centre of excellence for dealing with stroke work because that will have an impact on people from Southend and Rochford who will have far longer distances to travel with less and far more infrequent transport to get to those places.

“What measures are being put in place for the families that need to travel to see these people?”

Councillors were told all options around stroke wards and intermediate care would be looked at and no decisions would be made until after the public consultation.

Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Lamb said he would fight any attempt to move the remaining stroke unit out of Southend “tooth and nail”.

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter