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Three Nightingale Hospitals In The North Have Been Mobilised To Take Covid Patients Again

Medical director of NHS England Professor Stephen Powis revealed the number of Covid-19 patients now in hospital is more than on March 23 when the first national lockdown began (PA)

4 min read

Three of the makeshift Nightingale hospitals are being mobilised in the North of England to accept Covid-19 patients as cases continue to spike.

The announcement was made at a briefing by government scientists on the coronavirus situation this morning ahead of Boris Johnson unveiling stricter measures in the House of Commons. The government has been under intense pressure from local leaders to justify the policies they are planning to introduce with scientific evidence.

NHS England's Professor Stephen Powis revealed the amount of people now in hospital with the disease is 3,451, more than the number on March 23, when the first national lockdown was brought in.

He said all NHS hospital staff in high-risk areas will now be tested regularly, regardless of symptoms, and the Nightingales in Manchester, Sunderland and Harrogate could be brought back into use.

Originally created in April and May to prevent NHS hospitals from being overrun, the seven facilities were mothballed over the summer as rates of infection dwindled, with two repurposed as diagnostic clinics, but there has been suggestions they may be needed again this winter to deal with a second spike.

Speaking at the Downing Street press conference, Professor Powis said: "To protect our staff and our patients we will be introducing - with tests provided by the Test and Trace service - regular testing for staff in these high-risk areas, even when they don't have symptoms.

"This will help us keep staff and patients in those hospitals as safe as possible.

"Secondly, we have asked the Nightingale hospitals in Manchester, Sunderland and Harrogate to prepare for this next phase.

"They are being asked to mobilise over the next few weeks to be ready to accept patients if necessary."

He explained local clinicians will decide if the facilities are used to treat Covid patients or provide extra capacity to maintain healthcare services for patients without coronavirus.

And in response to a question from the media he suggested the other four Nightingale hospitals in Birmingham, Bristol, Exeter and London could also be reactivated if the prevalence of coronavirus rises in those areas too.

After the number of patients in hospital tipped over the 3,097 pre-lockdown number, the professor - medical director of NHS England - said: ”As the infection rate has begun to grow across the country, hospital infections have started to rise.

"It is clear that hospital admissions are rising fastest in those areas of the country where infection rates are highest, particularly the North West.

"In the over-65s - particularly the over-85s - we are seeing steep rises in the numbers of people being admitted to hospital so the claim that the elderly can somehow be fenced off from risk is wishful thinking.”

Speaking alongside him Dr Jane Eddleson, consultant in intensive care medicine at Manchester Royal Infirmary, revealed 30% of all Greater Manchester critical care hospital beds now contain Covid-19 patients. 

And Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, deputy chief medical officer for England, said other regions were now following the pattern seen in the North West, where the spike in the virus began among young people at first, but is now moving up through the age bands.

"You will see that the infection rate was initially highest in the 16-29-year-olds, he told the briefing.

"And that, as you move to the right just gets hotter and hotter but as it does so you can see the incremental creep of the infection into the next age band up, 30-44, followed two or three weeks later by a creep-up again into the 45-59s.

“And you can now see that the 60+ are now heating up on that chart. The North West experienced all of this first and my understanding is that pattern is likely to be followed - you can see it in the North East and you can see it in Yorkshire and the Humber just beginning but at an earlier stage."

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