After a flurry of unsubstantiated social media rumours and claims about Brentwood Community Hospital’s future on Friday I had an online meeting with representatives of the Mid and South Essex Health and Care Partnership (MSEHCP) and health trust NELFT to get the true picture. I am delighted to report that there is absolutely no threat to BCH at all - whoever started these distressing rumours is making the worst sort of mischief.
A silver lining to the cloud of coronavirus has been the opportunities which have arisen for our much-loved community hospital. Health and Social Care organisations have worked together to transform services which, in normal times, would have taken years, and it is clear BCH is a splendid example of organisations coming together to deliver a phenomenal service.
MSEHCP and NELFT told me that the demand for urgent health care during this pandemic has “massively saved” BCH. For too long it has been under-utilised from a Brentwood residents’ perspective because the PFI agreements put in place when it was rebuilt in 2008 made it ridiculously expensive building to use. The demands of the pandemic have cut through this, created more services and opportunities and brought the hospital to life. This will continue.
In the early days of lockdown, health staff worked with local volunteers, including off duty fire-fighters and temporarily out-of-work builders, to create 158 beds for COVID patients at the hospital by opening up a ward which has been closed since the hospital reopened in 2008 (PFI costs having made it too expensive to use) and repurposing outpatients departments. Barriers caused by bureaucracy have been broken down and staff have been freed up to work in new and different ways. A discharge team and ‘bed bureau’ has been created which works with acute hospitals to accept patients ready to move out of big hospital wards for rehabilitation. The team has enabled beds to be available in Brentwood within three hours of being told a patient needs to be discharged from the acute hospital ward in which they have been treated.
For a short time the outpatient services have been elsewhere - but they are now returning. Midwifery is back in already, phlebotomy is back on site on 20 July for NELFT and Basildon patients. Audiology and podiatry return this month too.
The clear message from to me from those running BCH has been: “We have become a NHS family again”. There are plans to work with Basildon Hospital to set up “hot clinics” where people can be referred to get early tests so doctors know what needs to be treated and can do the treatment at home. The hospital is also in the running to become a Seacole Centre where post-COVID patients can be rehabilitated following ventilation.
This is great news for Brentwood. I will be doing all I can to ensure Brentwood Community Hospital continues to develop its services for local people and becomes an ever greater asset to the community. www.alexburghart.org.uk