A £136,000 improvement project is going on behind the scenes at Basildon Hospital to introduce a new lifeline for patients.

Contractors have spent the past three months installing a new 550m copper main pipe – the length of five football pitches – in the basement.

It runs under the main corridor and connects two large oxygen tanks, holding a total of 78,000 litres of oxygen, at either end of the hospital site.

The oxygen is used for patients with respiratory conditions or to relieve pain.

It is one of the most commonly used medicines, and last year Basildon Hospital used 12 million litres, at a cost of £195,000.

The main pipe is 76mm in diameter, nearly twice that of the old one, meaning the hospital can now offer patients with certain types of respiratory failure more effective oxygen therapy.

The highly specialised £136,000 project has also improved patient safety.

Twenty-eight new valves have been installed to the oxygen main, meaning if a technical problem occurs in one area of the hospital, the supply can be isolated but still maintained in other wards.

David Bascombe, senior engineer at Basildon Hospital, said: “The whole project went like clockwork, with minimal disruption, thanks to the hard work of all the hospital staff and experts involved.

“It’s always a good feeling to complete complex work like this successfully, knowing that it has helped the hospital improve patient care.”