Temporary wards will be built in grounds of eight hospitals
The NHS is planning eight new temporary Nightingale hospitals across England following an increase in cases of the new Omicron COVID-19 variant.
Staff worked over Christmas on the plans to create 4,000 ‘super surge’ beds across NHS England hospitals.
The temporary structures will be capable of housing around 100 patients and will be erected in the grounds of the Royal Preston Hospital; St James’ Hospital, Leeds; Solihull Hospital; Leicester General Hospital; Lister Hospital, Stevenage; St George’s Hospital in London; William Harvey Hospital, Ashford; and Southmead Hospital in Bristol.
If hospitals need to activate the new beds after exhausting every other option, equipment previously used for the original Nightingale hospitals will be rapidly distributed to them.
Help at hand
The facilities will take patients who, although not fit for discharge, need minimal support and monitoring while they recover from illness, freeing up regular ward beds to provide care for those with more-intensive needs.
Patients may include those recovering from COVID-19 who are no longer infectious and do not need intensive oxygen therapy.
The units would be led by hospital consultants and nurses, but with other clinical and non-clinical staff brought in with rapid training to be able to perform routine checks and other tasks.
Given the high level of COVID-19 infections and increasing hospital admissions, the NHS is now on a war footing
And siting them in hospital grounds will make it easier to flex staff and equipment if there is a surge in admissions.
NHS trusts have also been asked to identify areas such as gyms and education centres that can be converted to accommodate surge patients, and more Nightingale sites could be added in the coming months to create additional beds.
The move comes as hospitals are using hotels, hospices, and care homes to safely discharge as many people who are medically fit to leave.
NHS national medical director, Professor Stephen Powis, said: “Given the high level of COVID-19 infections and increasing hospital admissions, the NHS is now on a war footing.
Preparing for the worst
“We do not yet know exactly how many of those who catch the virus will need hospital treatment, but given the number of infections we cannot wait to find out before we act and so work is beginning from today to ensure these facilities are in place.
“We hoped never to have to use the original Nightingales, and I hope we never to have to use these new hubs.”
Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Sajid Javid, added: “We’ve backed the NHS at every turn throughout this pandemic to make sure it provides the care and treatment people need.
“We hope the Nightingale surge hubs at hospitals will not have to be used, but it is absolutely right that we prepare for all scenarios and increase capacity.”