Temporary surge hospitals to be created in response to Omicron variant
A new network of temporary Nightingale hospitals will be built across England to increase capacity in the wake of the new Omicron COVID-19 variant. Pictured, the Nightingale Hospital London (BDP Architects)
The NHS is setting up new Nightingale surge hubs at hospitals across the country as part of preparations for a potential wave of Omicron admissions.
Temporary structures capable of housing around 100 patients will be erected in the grounds of eight hospitals across the country, with work starting as early as this week.
The first units will be built at the Royal Preston Hospital, St James’s Hospital in Leeds, Solihull Hospital, Leicester General Hospital, the Lister Hospital in Stevenage, St George’s Hospital in London, William Harvey Hospital in Ashford, and Southmead Hospital in Bristol.
They will improve NHS resilience if the record number of COVID-19 infections leads to a surge in admissions and outstrips existing capacity.
And placing these facilities in hospital grounds will make it easier to flex staff and equipment if there is a surge in admissions, providing access to diagnostics and emergency care if required.
The move comes as hospitals are using hotels, hospices, and care homes to safely discharge as many people who are medically fit to leave as possible.
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.
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 to ensure these facilities are in place
“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 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 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.”
NHS staff worked over the Christmas period on the plans to create 4,000 ‘super surge’ beds across the health service.
By comparison, a large district hospital might typically have around 500 beds.
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.
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
And the new Nightingale facilities would 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.
The use of virtual wards, where patients get monitoring technology and regular check-ins from clinicians to allow them to return home earlier, are also being ramped up by hospital teams, while GPs also have access to up to 250,000 pulse oximeters so COVID-19-positive patients can monitor their own blood oxygen levels at home.