Why are Nightingale hospitals not being used? COVID-19 is overwhelming the NHS

Why are Nightingale hospitals not being used? COVID-19 is overwhelming the NHS

Brits are frustrated as to why the Nightingale hospitals are not being used as COVID-19 pushes the NHS to breaking point.

This comes after the new variant of coronavirus in the UK has caused the nation to enter into a third national lockdown.

The NHS Nightingale Hospital at the Excel Centre is on standby (Credit: PA)

Why are nightingale hospitals not being used?

The emergency field hospitals were built during the first wave to cope when hospitals couldn't. But, they have not been fully utilised because of staffing issues.

Speaking to the BBC, British Medical Association leader, Dr Chaand Nagpaul provided comment. "We have 80,000 vacancies. You just can't have a doctor or nurse in two sites at once," he said.

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Additionally, an ICU nurse told Good Morning Britain that it's down to "absolutely appalling planning".

"Nightingale hospital [at the Excel Centre in London] is currently empty. If you wanted to staff the Nightingale hospital you would have to strip ICU nurses out of London’s hospitals," he explained.

"You couldn't make this up. [There were] millions spent on that hospital, and it cannot be used currently because the ICU staff we have running London's NHS are already working short-staffed. And the admissions keep coming in."

"In the NHS, in the ICU's in London, we're over capacity already. And we've been trying to recover from the [first wave]. We tried to run the NHS to the last minute when it was absolutely clear that the numbers were rising everywhere. We've been caught with our trousers down trying to do normal NHS work and pandemic work at the same time."

"That’s left us with real scenes of chaos and confusion. Our intensive care units are stretched beyond breaking. Nurses are looking after not one, not two but three patients on support machines. It’s absolutely harrowing. It’s breaking us."

national lockdown People in the UK are told to "stay at home" (Credit: PA)

Will Nightingale hospitals be used to fight the new variant?

Now, the NHS in London has asked to ensure that the Excel centre site is on standby.

Per, Sky News, a spokesperson for the NHS said that hospitals in the capital are under significant pressure. This is despite staff going "the extra mile"

"The NHS in London is opening more beds in NHS hospitals across the capital to care for the most unwell patients. It is crucial that people do everything they can to reduce transmission of the virus.

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"In anticipation of pressures rising from the spread of the new variant infection, NHS London was asked to ensure the London Nightingale was reactivated and ready to admit patients as needed. And that process is underway."

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told Times Radio: "Of course we stand ready to help with Nightingales if the critical pressures go beyond the capacity of the existing NHS. We are on, I think, 17,000 ventilator beds currently being used, of a capacity of 21,000."

"If it starts to tip over there, then, of course, you'll see those Nightingales being more active. And, moreover, we have a number of medical staff."

nightingale hospital People queueing at NHS Covid-19 vaccination centre in London (Credit: PA)

How many Nightingale hospitals are there?

There are seven NHS England Nightingale hospitals. They are located in: Birmingham, Bristol, Cumbria, Harrogate, Manchester and Sunderland. Additionally, there are sites in Exeter and London.

The hospitals were named after Florence Nightingale – the nurse who is known for caring for soldiers during the Crimean War. She is largely regarded as the founder of modern nursing.

Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales also established their own field hospitals, but these are not known as Nightingales.

Only two of the original sites – in Exeter and Belfast – are currently taking Covid-19 patients. And it is yet to be determined if the Excel Centre in London will come to do so as well.