Patients ‘moved to NHS Nightingale to make hospitals coronavirus-free’

Caption: Nightingale hospitals could be about to see more patients

PA – Getty

Non-critical coronavirus patients could be moved to NHS Nightingale wards across the UK in order to turn hospitals into ‘Covid-free zones’.

Earlier this week, Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced that the NHS is ‘open’, with key services, such as cancer care and mental health support, set to be restored.

So-far, the Nightingale hospitals have not been used to their full capacity, with London’s wards only treating 26 patients last week, while Birmingham has seen no patients at all. Ministers are now reportedly considering moving all non-critical coronavirus patients to the wards.

This should allow the UK’s permanent hospitals to slowly return to normal service, without fears of overwhelming the NHS, The Times reports.

The NHS Nightingale hospitals have not been used to full capacity (Picture: PA)

The Nightingale hospitals were previously accused of turning away patients, despite the London ward holding up to 4,000 beds. Doctors claimed the temporary hospitals lacked specialist staff and equipment to treat coronavirus cases.

The Guardian reported that the London hospital has been unable to admit about 50 people with coronavirus since its first patient arrived on the site, with 30 rejected because of a lack of staff.

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This was then disputed by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), while NHS London stated that there had been spare capacity in the capital’s critical care network, rendering the free space not currently in-demand.

Similarly in Birmingham, the 4,000-bed Nightingale set up inside the National Exhibition Centre has not yet been needed, while in Sunderland, a 460-bed, 20-ward facility may never open. 

Claims there weren’t enough staff in the hospitals have been dismissed (Picture: PA)
Using the space will free up the NHS for other services (Picture: PA)

NHS London said: ‘The most important point about staff at the Nightingale is that thanks to their care and expertise, patients in that hospital are being successfully treated, discharged and ultimately having their life saved. ‘

‘There remains spare capacity in the critical care network across the capital to look after all coronavirus patients and others who need our care, and while it is incredibly reassuring for both staff and patients to have backup capacity at the Nightingale to alleviate pressure on ICU departments where needed, patients can be transferred to other hospitals in the city if they are better placed to receive them at that time – as is always the case.’

Consultant Richard Breeze, head of the intensive care unit at Lewisham Hospital, said there was a ‘diminishing plateau of Covid-19 cases’. He added: ‘I would be surprised if there was anyone at all in the [London] Nightingale quite soon.’

Hancock has pledged to restore cancer care and mental health support (Picture: PA)

Earlier this week Hancock revealed that less people were attending A&E for non-coronavirus related issues, perhaps falsely believing they would be safer at home. Speaking at the daily press conference, the Health Secretary urged members of the public to seek medical attention if they need it.

He said: ‘As the number of hospitalisations from coronavirus begins to fall, I can announce that starting tomorrow, we will begin the restoration of other NHS services starting with the most urgent like cancer care and mental health support.

‘The exact pace of the restoration will be determined by local circumstances on the ground, according to local need and the amount of coronavirus cases that hospital is having to deal with.

‘Having written off £13.4 billion of historic NHS debt, I want to ensure the NHS is always there in a way that doesn’t just help us recover from coronavirus as a country, but also puts us in a stronger position for the future.’

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