AN exhausted doctor has criticised the lack of staff which is said to have left 30 A&E shifts unstaffed for the next seven days.

The medic, who asked to remain anonymous, said differing pay arrangements between Basildon and Southend Hospitals had exacerbated the problem, with doctors less likely to stand in for shifts at Southend because of delays in overtime payment.

The Southend Hospital doctor said: “The whole situation is impacting everyone’s mental health and we are seeing rising numbers of staff either isolating with family members who have tested positive or falling ill.

“The problem has not occurred overnight. We have been short-staff of doctors, nurses, health care assistants, radiographers for years now. Southend suffers more than Basildon, because we are on lower pay grades – with Basildon staff receiving an Outer London weighting. And they are paid their overtime weekly. In Southend we have to wait for overtime payments at least a month in arrears.”

The hospital has been forced to send some Covid-19 patients to Basildon Hospital after running short on oxygen. The doctor added: “We are facing more pressure now than in the first wave and quite frankly we are all exhausted and unsure when we might get respite.

“We would rather not be moving patients from Southend to Basildon but the oxygen supply problems are continuing in Southend and we have no choice.”

A spokesman for the Save Southend NHS campaign group said: “We have real concerns about the safety of patients and staff at Southend Hospital. The pressures on the hospital are such that mistakes might be made through lack of oxygen supply, rushed transfers, long waits for ambulances and the sheer number of staff going off sick.

“We know we still have doctor and other staff holes in the shifts for the remainder of this week. Many bank and agency staff do not want to work in Covid-19 areas, so that puts even more presssure on those prepared to work in challenging conditions”

Danny Hariram, chief people and organisational development director for Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust said: “We continuously review our staffing levels so that our patients are safe and receive appropriate care. We sometimes have gaps on the doctor’s rota but this is normally eased by using bank or agency shifts to cover them.

“From the beginning of April, we plan for our medical staff who work temporary shifts at Southend hospital to be paid on a weekly basis. We are currently looking at interim arrangements that we can put place for the next ten weeks.”