politics

Nurses and MPs in coronavirus plea for Nightingale hospitals to be opened now


Nurses and MPs last night led pleas to open up the Nightingale hospitals after a surge in Covid intensive care admissions.

Calls were made to use the seven emergency units built for £220million during the first wave as one NHS trust reached crisis point and four nearby hospitals were at full stretch.

Bosses at Royal Stoke University Hospital raised the alarm as the number of critically-ill patients in Staffordshire swelled.

There were just eight ventilation beds left when its alert level rose to level four – the highest critical level – on Friday.

Sources said the hospital was totally overwhelmed by Covid cases, with critically-ill patients transferred as far as Northampton 95 miles away.



The Nightingale hospital in Birmingham remains closed despite the millions that was spent on building it

Other hospitals in Stoke, Burton, Nottingham and Northampton were at level three – just one stage away from the highest level at which they would be overwhelmed.

Royal College of Nursing steward Rob Irving said Stoke hospital had never experienced anything like this before.

He said: “The decision to move patients out of the trust’s intensive care won’t be taken lightly by any stretch of the imagination. They are last resort decisions.”

An intensive care nurse at Royal Stoke, who asked not to be named, said: “The hospital is sending seriously ill Covid patients all over the UK to other hospitals.



Health Secretary Matt Hancock at the opening of the NHS Nightingale Hospital in London in April

“There’s only a handful of ventilation beds left which we need for other emergencies. It’s not enough for a city like Stoke.

“We need the Nightingales open. This is what they are there for.”

Despite Covid infection numbers falling, the number of hospital cases requiring intensive care is rising due to the two-week time lag between infection and hospital admission.

Shadow Health Minister Justin Madders said there was an urgent need to open at least some of the Nightingales.

He said: “The whole point of the Nightingale hospitals was that they were meant to be an additional resource for the NHS to call on when patient numbers became too great.

“It is clear that in some local areas ordinary hospital capacity is at breaking point. We know there have been issues with getting staff for some of them but the Government has had ample time. Ministers need to act urgently to avoid parts of the NHS from being overwhelmed.”

Of the UK’s seven Nightingales, only Exeter in South Devon is currently accepting coronavirus patients.





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