Extra funding to help bolster community healthcare in Southend during winter

Southend is set to benefit from an extra £1.2 million in funding to ease winter pressures on the health service.

The cash will be used to streamline patient flow through Southend Hospital and bolster community healthcare, including buying up ten extra beds in the city’s care homes.

The move comes after care home boss Michael Daley, who is also chairman of the South Essex Care and Health Association, called it “criminal” that care home beds were lying empty while the hospital struggled to discharge patients.

Benedict Leigh, director of commissioning for Southend City Council, said every effort was being made to plan for a “very challenging winter”.

Speaking at a health and wellbeing board meeting on Thursday, Mr Leigh said: “We know the main issues are flow, the way people move through the health and care system, and in particular when people have a crisis and require emergency support. Whether that’s in the community or emergency support in A&E or support to leave hospital after a crisis, the way we move people through that is really important, and particularly important in order to enable the smooth flow of ambulances.

“The main issue is capacity, enough services in the right place and the third issue is COVID and flu, seasonal illnesses. We do seem to be seeing significant seasonal impact of COVID and we anticipate more of it coming up.”

Mr Leigh added: “We’re going to buy some additional beds in care homes. That’s not the best thing for people. We know that bed-based care isn’t the best for people but it’s better to be in a residential care home than to be in hospital.

” We have 30 beds at Brook Meadows to support discharge and ten beds in other care homes on top of the short term to intermediate beds we have at brook meadow so we are increasing by about 25 per cent the number of short term beds to support people to leave hospital.”

Southend has been allocated £687,000 winter discharge funding, and Mid and South Essex Integrated Care System will receive £3.2 million of which £537,000 is for Southend.

The money will be spent on additional staffing, particularly social workers and extra incentives to care providers, which will go to support staff and manage flow.

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter