New Nightingale ‘surge hubs’ will be set up at hospitals across England as the NHS prepares for a potential wave of patients with Omicron.
Eight temporary structures, capable of housing around 100 patients, will be placed at hospitals in the coming weeks.
The NHS says it’s now on a ‘war footing’ as the UK continues to hit new records of coronavirus infection rates – a total of 183,037 new cases yesterday.
The Nightingale hubs will ‘improve NHS resilience’ if those infection rates translate to a surge in hospital admissions that outstrips existing capacity.
Health bosses say they hope they will never have to use these new hubs.
NHS trusts have also been asked to identify other areas that could be converted, like gyms and education centres, that could add up to 4,000 ‘super surge’ beds.
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 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.
“Staff across the health service are working around the clock to provide the best possible care to patients and rollout the NHS COVID vaccination programme.
“The public can play their part by following the guidance to limit the spread of infection and by getting boosted now.
“The science is clear. Two doses of vaccine do not provide enough protection against Omicron so if you have not yet had a life-saving booster do not delay any longer”.
Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Sajid Javid said: “We’ve backed the NHS at every turn throughout this pandemic to make sure it provides the care and treatment people need. I want to thank the tireless efforts of our health workers on the frontline who are delivering for patients every day.
“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.”
The Nightingale facilities would be used for patients who need minimal support and monitoring, freeing up normal hospital beds for those with more intensive needs.
The first eight of the Nightingale surge hubs will be at the following hospitals:
North West – Royal Preston
North East and Yorkshire – Leeds, St James’ site
Midlands – Solihull Hospital, University Hospitals Birmingham and University Hospitals Leicester
East of England – Lister Hospital, Stevenage
London – St George’s
South East – William Harvey Hospital, Ashford
South West – North Bristol