A COMPLETE overhaul of Covid treatment in Essex is needed to ease increasing pressure on hospitals, a council boss has warned.

As hospitals across the county treat record numbers of patients, Kerry Smith, Independent deputy leader of Basildon Council said we need to change tactic quickly - starting with opening the Nightingale Hospital at the Excel Centre, in London.

He said: “We need to get staff into hospitals very quickly - where are the 30,000 volunteers who signed up?

“It’s time the Government puts its foot to the floor and deals with this. We’ve all been behind the NHS but the Government needs to join us in backing it too. We cannot be turning away people who need other medical attention but it’s looking likely.

“We must send all Covid patients to Nightingale Hospitals - the Excel Docklands one is about 20 minutes from Basildon.

“We need wartime ‘can do’ attitudes and spirit and it’s about time Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock got the job done.”

The NHS Nightingale Hospital London, housed in the Excel centre has an initial capacity for 500 patients, with potential for 4,000.

Yesterday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed the ad hoc hospital remains open and is on standby if the situation worsens. He said: “I’ve seen some stories circulating saying it has been decommissioned - those stories are wrong. But it is better for people if they are treated inside a hospital, but of course the Nightingales are there for extra support should it be needed.

“And it will require changes to working patterns of staff if we do need to have patients in the Nightingales once more, but it is crucial, in my view, that we have those Nightingales there ready in case we need them.”

Trevor Harp, Southend Independent councillor for health and adult social care said everything possible has been done so far to stop the spread and said: “I do not think people should be worried about the major incident being declared.

“We are taking all the appropriate actions and there are measures in place to deal with this.

“The major incident declaration is escalating this. We will be asking the Government for help with staffing issues.

“This is not a matter of funding, we may also need help with logistic issues that could be better but the main thing is staffing.

“I do not think any particular extra measures we could have taken that would have impacted this.”

A spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care told the Echo: “We are working closely with colleagues at NHS England, who are considering all appropriate actions to support the local NHS teams in Essex.”

Unison Eastern head of health Sasha Savage said: “We’ve been lurching from one crisis to another during this pandemic and the government’s cack-handed efforts have done little to help.

“Even with an NHS hammered by a decade of austerity, much more could have been done to slow the spread of Covid-19: from PPE to testing, to a pig-headed insistence on keeping schools open.”