Mothballed Nightingale at London’s ExCeL centre is prepped to take recovering Covid patients from overwhelmed hospitals while doubling as mass- vaccination hub… eight months after being closed in first lockdown
- Nightingale in London is being revamped as vaccination centre and facility for patients recovering from Covid
- Photographs taken today show ambulances lined up outside as lorries arrive ahead of its reopening next week
- ExCeL will provide rehabilitation those recovering after emergency hospital stay and who are not positive
- But there have been concerns over ability to staff site properly, with 50,000 NHS staff currently off sick
- It comes eight months after ExCeL closed as hospital on May 15 last year, having treated about 50 patients
Preparations are now well underway to reopen the mothballed NHS Nightingale hospital in London as a giant mass vaccination centre and facility for patients recovering from coronavirus.
Photographs taken this morning showed ambulances lined up outside the ExCeL centre in Newham, East London, as lorries arrived ahead of NHS staff beginning to use the 100-acre site as a huge hospital from next week.
The ExCeL will provide rehabilitation for patients who are recovering after an emergency hospital stay and who are not Covid-19 positive, with the intention of freeing up more beds in other hospitals for coronavirus patients.
However there have been concerns over the ability to staff the site properly, with around 50,000 NHS employees currently off sick. The number of beds is expected to be based on demand and staff availability.
It comes eight months after the ExCeL closed as a hospital on May 15 last year, having treated about 50 patients despite being originally planned to have up to 4,000 beds following its opening by Prince Charles on April 3.
The flagship Nightingale was one of seven opened to great fanfare at the start of the pandemic, along with centres in Birmingham, Manchester, Exeter, Harrogate in North Yorkshire, Bristol and Washington in Tyne and Wear.
Senior members of the Royal Family, also including Camilla and Prince William, remotely opened three of the hospitals in April, while NHS fundraising hero Captain Tom Moore cut the virtual red tape on another.
But they have hardly been used, and concerns have been mounting over whether they ever will be – with doctors warning there are not enough staff as it is, and therefore insufficient numbers for the hospitals if they reopen.
The ExCeL has also now been announced as being among the first seven mass vaccination centres which are set to open next week in a bid to help vaccinate the 13million in the four top priority groups by mid-February.
Ambulances lined up outside the ExCel in East London today, with preparations well underway to turn it back into a hospital
Lorries arrive at the ExCel today ahead of NHS staff beginning to use the 100-acre site as a huge hospital from next week
The ExCel is being turned into a giant mass vaccination centre and facility for patients recovering from coronavirus
It had initially been scheduled to start delivering jabs three weeks ago. The other six regional vaccination centres opening within days are at Epsom Racecourse; the Etihad Tennis Centre in Manchester; the Centre for Life in Newcastle; Millennium Point in Birmingham; Robertson House in Stevenage; and Ashton Gate Stadium in Bristol.
The ExCeL will be at the centre of the ‘London Mass Vaccination Programme’, operating seven days a week from 8am to 8pm. Other London sites which have been offered up for use by the NHS include the nightclub G-A-Y.
Six in ten hospital trusts have more Covid patients than first-wave peak
More than half of all major hospital trusts in England currently have more Covid-19 patients than at the peak of the first wave of the virus, new analysis shows.
It comes as London mayor Sadiq Khan declared a ‘major incident’, saying the spread of coronavirus threatens to overwhelm the capital’s hospitals.
In two regions – eastern England and south-east England – more than three-quarters of trusts are above their first-wave peak.
Other trusts have seen their numbers rise so rapidly that they could pass their first-wave peak within days.
The analysis found that of 139 acute hospital trusts who reported figures for January 5, 84 – or 60 per cent – had more Covid-19 patients than at the peak of the first wave in spring 2020.
- East Suffolk & North Essex, which had 367 confirmed Covid-19 patients as of 8am on January 5, compared with a first-wave peak of 143.
- Barts in London, where there were 830 Covid-19 patients on January 5 compared with a first-wave peak of 606.
- Portsmouth Hospitals University, which had 457 patients compared with a first-wave peak of 244.
- University Hospitals of Derby and Burton, which had 426 patients versus a first-wave peak of 252.
- Hull University Teaching Hospitals, where the number stood at 208 on January 5 compared with a first-wave peak of 112.
A majority of acute trusts in London – 14 out of 23 – are currently recording patient levels higher than at the peak of the first wave.
The same is true for south-west England (11 out of 15) and the Midlands (16 out of 23).
The proportion is even higher in south-east England (15 out of 18) and eastern England (13 out of 14).
In northern England most trusts are still below their first-wave peak, however.
Some trusts in northern areas saw numbers hit a record high in the autumn then fall back before Christmas, only to start rising again more recently.
An example is Liverpool University Hospitals Trust, which saw a peak of 475 patients on October 30, followed by a drop to 112 by December 13, but where the number now stands at 248.
Acute trusts manage all the major hospitals in England with A&E departments, inpatient and outpatient surgery, and specialist medical care.
The total number of Covid-19 patients in all hospitals in England – including mental health and community trusts – currently stands at 28,246. This is 49 per cent above the first wave peak of 18,974 on April 12.
All figures are based on the latest available data from NHS England.
But the ExCeL should already be open and vaccinating the vulnerable, according to a handbook produced for volunteers by the Barts Health NHS Trust.
It states: ‘The Vaccination Centre is due to open on December 14. It will then steadily increase its capacity, and is planned to be working a full capacity by April 2021.’
In London, epicentre of the crisis, Mayor Sadiq Khan has declared a ‘major incident’ as the spread of Covid-19 threatens to ‘overwhelm’ the capital’s hospitals.
City Hall said today that Covid-19 cases in London had exceeded 1,000 per 100,000, while there are 35 per cent more people in hospital with the virus than in the peak of the pandemic in April.
A ‘major incident’ means the ‘severity of the consequences’ associated with it are ‘likely to constrain or complicate the ability of responders to resource and manage the incident’.
Mr Khan has written to the Prime Minister Boris Johnson asking for more financial support for Londoners who need to self-isolate and unable to work, and for daily vaccination data.
He is also asking for the closure of places of worship and for face masks to be worn routinely outside of the home, including in crowded places and supermarket queues.
Mr Khan said: ‘The situation in London is now critical with the spread of the virus out of control. The number of cases in London has increased rapidly with more than a third more patients being treated in our hospitals now compared to the peak of the pandemic last April.
‘Our heroic doctors, nurses and NHS staff are doing an amazing job, but with cases rising so rapidly, our hospitals are at risk of being overwhelmed. The stark reality is that we will run out of beds for patients in the next couple of weeks unless the spread of the virus slows down drastically.
‘We are declaring a major incident because the threat this virus poses to our city is at crisis point. If we do not take immediate action now, our NHS could be overwhelmed and more people will die.
‘Londoners continue to make huge sacrifices and I am today imploring them to please stay at home unless it is absolutely necessary for you to leave. Stay at home to protect yourself, your family, friends and other Londoners and to protect our NHS.’
Hospitals are now stretched to breaking point as senior NHS figures warned that they could be overwhelmed by the surge in patients. In London, hospitals are set to completely run out of beds in just two weeks.
There are now 50 per cent more coronavirus inpatients, compared with during the peak in April, affecting every UK region. In Kent, one hospital warned that it may have to withdraw critical care from some of those it is treating.
Sir Simon Stevens, head of the NHS, told yesterday’s Downing Street press conference: ‘We’ve seen an increase of 10,000 hospitalised coronavirus patients just since Christmas Day.
‘That is of course all happening at what is traditionally the busiest time of year for hospitals and the wider NHS. The pressures are real and they are growing.’
He spoke out as the number of Covid-19 patients in hospital in England stood at a record 28,246 as of 8am yesterday. There were 3,697 admissions, including 913 in London, a record number for the fourth consecutive day.
Sir Simon said the number of admissions in London ‘was the equivalent of a new St Thomas’ hospital, full of Covid-patients, every day.
NHS England chiefs warned that even under the best-case scenario, there will be no space in hospitals in the capital for at least 1,500 seriously ill patients by January 19.
Ambulances parked near the ExCeL in East London this week as preparations continue for its reopening for the NHS
The ExCeL will provide rehabilitation for those recovering after an emergency hospital stay and who are not Covid-19 positive
NHS bosses want the ExCeL in East London to help with freeing up more beds in other hospitals for coronavirus patients
The reopening of the ExCeL comes eight months after the centre in East London closed as a hospital on May 15 last year
The warning came from London’s medical director, Vin Diwakar, who said the health service will be swamped even after activating more ‘surge capacity’ and opening the Nightingale hospital.
Half of all hospital patients in London currently have Covid-19, and there are 7,034 of them. During the first wave the number peaked at 5,201 on April 9.
The official briefing, seen by the Health Service Journal, forecast the growth in Covid patient numbers over the next two weeks.
Under a best-case scenario, it will rise to 9,500 by January 19. Under the worst-case scenario, there will be 12,406.
This is on top of the 7,401 beds required by non-virus patients. Even with maximising all available capacity and opening the Nightingale, there will be a shortfall of up to 4,600 beds, the briefing said.
A tent set up inside the ExCeL in East London this week as preparations continue for the 100-acre site to be reopened
The flagship Nightingale at the ExCeL, pictured this week, was one of seven opened to great fanfare at the start of the crisis
There have been concerns over the ability to staff the site properly, with around 50,000 NHS employees currently off sick
The site closed having treated about 50 patients despite being originally planned to have up to 4,000 beds after its opening
Hospital bosses are desperately trying to create more space by converting other wards.However, there are not enough staff, with shortages of nurses particularly acute.
Usually each ICU nurse would look after one patient, but they are having to look after up to four. Doctors have been asked to do nursing shifts to ease the ‘immense’ pressure.
Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, said: ‘We are already using some of the Nightingales, including the ones in Exeter and Manchester.
‘These were always a last-minute insurance policy. If we’re going to staff them we are going to need to take staff away from existing hospitals.’
The pressure is having a catastrophic effect on non-Covid care, with cancer surgery and heart operations cancelled. The ambulance service is also struggling, with vehicles queuing at hospitals because there is no space in A&E.
Prince Charles speaks via video link from Birkhall as he officially opens the NHS Nightingale at ExCeL on April 3 last year
Health Secretary Matt Hancock also attended the opening of the NHS Nightingale Hospital at the ExCeL on April 3, 2020
Engineers work on constructing the NHS Nightingale at the ExCeL on March 31 last year shortly after the first lockdown began
Professor Rupert Pearse, an intensive care consultant at Barts Health NHS Trust, said: ‘The situation is definitely worse than the first wave.
‘We’re really struggling to provide the quality of care that we think patients deserve. The problem is not just in London.’
Asked on BBC Radio 4 if he believes the health service could be overwhelmed within two weeks, he replied: ‘I never thought in my entire career that I might say something like this but, yes, I do.’
In Kent, the Darent Valley Hospital, near Dartford, said it was at ‘Critcon level four’ – meaning its resources were overwhelmed.
Critcon level four requires tougher decisions about who to treat and some patients who would usually get critical care will not.
Source: Read Full Article