ANEW day surgerywill be created at Basildon Hospital in a bid to free up beds and cut costs.

Bosses have drawn up plans to convertamedical ward into a day treatment centre, which will see patients admitted and discharged within 12 hours.

They claim the overnight beds on the ward will not be missed during the summer months, and have vowed to find space elsewhere in the hospital to replace them in time for next winter.

Work to create the day unit is already under way, with the number of beds in use being gradually reduced every week.

It is set to open within the next fewmonths.

Clare Panniker, chief executive of Basildon Hospital, said the project was part of a money-saving drive. She added: “We are taking the opportunity now summer is approaching to make sure our planning for next winter is as good as this year. We’re committing money to building some new services.

“There are a lot of patients who we only really need to see on a day basis, but we are having to keep them in overnight at the moment.

“We are joining up with the community team so if it is at all possible patients will remain in their own homes. They are under the care of a consultant, but do not have to stay in hospital. Also, if we can keep patients healthy while they are at home, it will reduce their hospital admissions.

“The day centre will be better for patients, but also better for us because it will cut our number of overnight beds.”

Regulations for staffing levels are linked to the number of inpatient beds, meaning trusts can find themselves wasting money on agency staff out of the winter season because of under-used beds.

Contracted staff currently based on the medical ward which is closing have been told they will be transferred to other wards within the hospital.