New NHS Nightingale hospitals will be opened in Sunderland and Exeter to provide extra beds for patients with coronavirus symptoms if they are needed in the weeks ahead.
Six days since announcing the development of NHS Nightingale hospitals in Bristol and Harrogate, NHS chief executive, Sir Simon Stevens, has confirmed the additional sites in Devon and Tyne and Wear.
This brings the total to seven confirmed NHS Nightingale hospitals in a matter of weeks.
The Exeter and Sunderland sites are expected to be operational towards the end of April or early May and will add up to 700 beds to be used by local services if needed.
NHS Nightingale North East will have up to 450 beds initially, with NHS Nightingale Exeter adding around 200.
This extra capacity is on top of the 33,000 additional beds freed up across NHS hospitals – the equivalent of building 50 district general hospitals – and the up to 8,000 beds put at the NHS’ disposal through an unprecedented deal with the independent sector.
These measures mean that capacity still exists in hospitals to care for patients with coronavirus, as well as other patients who may need urgent and emergency treatment, with the Nightingales standing ready if local services need them beyond that.
The announcement comes after the first patients began to be admitted to NHS Nightingale Hospital London, which was operational less than two weeks after its conception.
Sir Simon Stevens, NHS chief executive, said: “These hospitals will provide backup and support for NHS hospitals across the South West and the North East, should it be needed.
“Our local health service staff have rightly recommended we go ahead with these additional facilities. But our ambition as a country has to be to continue to stay at home to cut infections and save lives – so that the need to actually use these Nightingale hospitals is as limited as possible.”
The seven confirmed NHS Nightingale hospitals will be integrated with and support existing NHS Hospitals in areas across the length and breadth of England.
In common with the five other Nightingale sites, converting the facilities – at the Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing in Washington, and the Westpoint Centre in Exeter – will be a joint project between local NHS organisations, the armed forces and contractors.
The Nightingales are part of a nationwide effort to respond to the greatest global health emergency in more than a century.
Professor Stephen Powis, national medical director, NHS England, said: “As the NHS faces the greatest health challenge in its history, we’re supporting patients and staff with additional capacity across the soon-to-be seven NHS Nightingale Hospitals.”
“The new sites – including the two announced today in Sunderland and Exeter – will give the NHS the best chance of ensuring coronavirus patients needing specialist care can get it, wherever they live.”
“It is an incredible feat, but the key aim is to reduce the number of patients needing them, so I urge everyone to take sensible steps to reduce transmission of this virus.”
This will take the initial number of additional beds to be created by the Nightingale project nationally to more than 3,600, with the ability to add more if local health bosses think they are needed.
All Nightingales will draw on existing NHS staff, as well as the thousands of returning staff and training clinicians who have already begun to swell their ranks.