Nightingale hospital built in preparation for Omicron wave may never treat patients

By James Mayer, Local Democracy Reporter

A Nightingale field hospital built to tackle omicron cases in South London is unlikely to ever treat any patients, according to NHS bosses.

It comes as the Omicron wave is past its peak in London but case rates are still “phenomenally high”.

The Nightingale Hospital at St George’s Hospital in Tooting was built in its car park and is designed to treat around 100 patients with coronavirus.

It was one of eight hospitals across England started in preparation for a potential wave of Omicron admissions.

The other Nightingale hubs are located in Preston, Leeds, Stevenage, Ashford, Bristol, Solihull and Leicester.

The network of emergency Nightingale hospitals set up in spring 2020 to cope with the first wave was closed down in April 2021.

But “sustained declines” in Covid case rates according to London health bosses is an “assurance” we are past the peak.

They added that vaccination remains the most effective tool to combat Omicron.

The head of London’s NHS response to Covid, Martin Machray said from December 2021 to January this year, hospital Covid admissions in London have trebled from 1,000 in December to around 3,000 in January.

But Mr Machray said there are not as many people in ICU than previous waves and the majority in hospitals have had either no Covid jab or just one.

Around 220 are in ICU with Covid at London hospitals currently, it was revealed.

He told City Hall’s health committee on Thursday, January 13: “[St George’s] would be staffed if it was necessary by stretching our existing staff and bringing in non-clinical staff over supervision to look after the least sickly of our patients.

“There is no plan at present to use that facility. The current wave of community infection is falling and so are our admissions now, thankfully, for Covid.

“So we have no expectation that this wave would need to be staffed.”

Martin Machray, executive director of performance for the NHS in London said: “The NHS in London continues to face significant pressure and uncertainty due to the Omicron variant, but thanks to the hard work of colleagues across the capital there is no current need to use our Nightingale Surge Hub.

“It is however vital that we are ready to respond to any increases in people needing hospital care this winter and the Hub is part of that response.

“We urge Londoners to continue to do their bit by getting their Covid-19 and flu vaccines now if they are eligible, and using the 111 service first for non-urgent medical help.”

Professor Kevin Fenton, London’s public health chief, said: “We continue to see sustained declines in case rates both in all ages as well as in those aged over 60.

“Those declines, especially when combined with reductions in community, will give us the assurance that we’re truly past the wave.”

But he added: “[London] rates are still phenomenally high. Over 1,500 people are infected per 100,000, more than four times higher than before this wave started.”

 


 

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