In England, new NHS Nightingale Hospitals will open in London, Birmingham and Manchester to provide care to thousands more patients with coronavirus, chief executive Sir Simon Stevens has announced. The hospital based at the ExCel in London will start with 500 beds equipped with a capacity of 4000 beds, the NEC in Birmingham will start with up to 500 beds equipped with the capacity to increase beds up to 2,000 if needed. The hospital based at the Manchester Central Complex will provide up to 500 beds but could expand further to 1,000 beds for coronavirus patients across the North West of England. These new hospitals will provide support for patients from across the Midlands and the North West. Confirmation of the new NHS Nightingale sites came as Sir Simon revealed that the NHS has freed up 33,000 beds across existing NHS hospitals for coronavirus patients, the equivalent of 50 new hospitals.
In Wales, NHS executives have been putting structures and processes in place to combat Covid-19 across the main hospital sites, at the University Hospital Wales and the University Hospital Llandough. In addition to this they have secured the Principality Stadium, Cardiff as a temporary field hospital with the capacity to hold up to an additional 2,000 beds. Clinicians and managers are currently working with the Principality Stadium team and a range of specialist contractors to create the new facility at pace. The work has already started with teams assigned to adapt the home of Welsh rugby to a temporary hospital - a significant task in scale and the timing of the virus.
In Scotland, the army has confirmed officers from the Royal Engineers have been assessing the SEC in Glasgow as a temporary hospital location. The army in Scotland has said military liaison officers will be working with health boards. Senior officers are now working at the Scottish government headquarters, St Andrew's House, coordinating their efforts with civil servants. The Scottish government said the assistance of the Royal Engineers at the SEC would inform their contingency planning.
In Northern Ireland, preparations are under way to establish large temporary field hospitals for coronavirus patients. Plans for the regional critical care facilities are being developed after modelling indicated the current health service network may not have the capacity to cope at the peak of the outbreak. It is understood officials have been working to identify buildings across the region that would be best suited to act as temporary hospitals.
The NHS chief executive, Sir Simon Stevens, said: “It will take a monumental effort from everyone across the country to beat this epidemic, but the NHS is mobilising like never before to deliver care in new ways, to thousands more people – starting with the opening of the first NHS Nightingale in London later next week. “These are extraordinary steps the NHS is taking, and clinicians, managers and military planners are working day and night to create, equip and staff these hospitals from scratch and prepare for the surge that is likely to be coming”.
“While we continue to pull out all the stops, we do need the public to play their part. Every single person in this country can make a difference by following the medical advice to the letter – stay at home, wash your hands, which will help stop the virus letting rip and will therefore save lives.”
The new hospitals will draw from predominantly NHS doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals from across the country. A number of military medics will be on hand to care for patients too. The new hospitals are part of a huge NHS mobilisation plan to deal with the growing number of coronavirus patients. More than 18,000 doctors, nurses and other former NHS staff have already volunteered to return to fight the virus. Staff members are then being put in touch with their local NHS services where a role based on their clinical skills and work history is found.
The opportunity to re-join the NHS continues to be open to all former NHS staff from the last three years – even if they haven’t been contacted by their medical regulator. All former staff that join the ‘NHS army’ are given a full induction and online training to help them to hit the ground running. The renewed call comes after the NHS extended its ‘Your NHS needs you’ call to the general public, with already more than 725,000 people volunteering to help deliver medicines from pharmacies, drive patients to appointments, bringing patients home from hospital and making regular phone calls to check on people isolating at home.