NO Covid-19 patients in south Essex require the support of a ventilator, with hospital bosses insisting the situation “remains under control”.

Ambulances carrying patients to Basildon – which has a dedicated Covid-19 unit – were forced to divert to Southend and Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford last week - sparking concerns how the hospital could cope with a winter increase.

However, bosses at the Mid and South Essex Hospitals Trust have responded saying staff have been working “tirelessly” to ensure enough beds are prepared.

The trust told the Echo that while there are patients with Covid-19 in the hospital - who are in separate wards to other patients - none require care from the specialist centre that has been set up.

The specialist coronavirus ward is made up of 48 beds all with capacity to be hooked up to ventilators.

Tom Abell, chief strategy and transformation officer and deputy chief executive for the trust, said: “It is simply not true that there are not enough critical care beds at Basildon Hospital.

“Our staff have been working tirelessly for many months to prepare for a second wave of Covid so we can give the best care in the right place for our patients.

“We have created the MSE Specialist Care Centre at the hospital to improve care for those most seriously ill from Covid, with 48 beds for patients needing ventilators should the need arise.

“None of those beds is currently in use, meaning that they are ready and waiting for those that may need them in the future.

“This approach to COVID-19 critical care at Basildon Hospital has been held up as an example of best practice across the NHS.”

Mr Abell said huge amounts of money has been spent on keeping patients across the hospital safe and the trust will continue to provide care for patients will all types of conditions.

However, patients are still dying from Covid-19 in the county.

In the latest figures released by NHS England, 323 people had died in the hospital from the virus as of 5pm on Wednesday.

That was an increase of three compared to Tuesday, when there were 320.

It means there have been nine deaths in the past week, up from three the previous week.

Mr Abell said: “Millions of pounds have been spent on reorganising our wards and departments so that we can keep patients safe across the hospital, and can continue to care for everyone who needs treatment – not just those with Covid-19.

“It is disappointing that the councillors haven’t recognised the enormous amount of work that has taken place.

“We would be more than happy to meet with them so that our staff can talk them through the changes that have been made."

He added: "Covid patients are in Covid wards, so are kept separate from non-Covid patients, as has been the same throughout the pandemic. Basildon Hospital continues to welcome patients, all our services remain open, and those who need emergency care or have appointments with us should absolutely come to the hospital.

"We have restricted some visiting to help protect patients, visitors and staff.

"Last week, to support Basildon Hospital managing an increase of Covid positive patients and lengthening A&E waiting times, ambulances were temporarily diverted to our other sites at Broomfield and Southend Hospitals.

"Working as one Trust, our hospitals are supporting each other when needed so our patients get the best possible care."

Covid-19 deaths in the East of England now total 3,516.