Outside St George’s Hospital in Tooting in south London, workers were already setting up a metal frame to support the roof of a new unit, reporters from the AFP news agency reported.
“Given the high level of COVID-19 infections and rising hospitalizations, the NHS is now at war,” said National Medical Director Stephen Powis.
He added that he hoped “we should never use these new hubs”.
Source: PA wire
The extra beds are designed for patients recovering from illness, including those who no longer have COVID, to free up space and staff in the adjacent hospitals to treat a large number of virus cases.
The number of patients in the hospital with the virus is also growing rapidly, exceeding 10,000 in the UK on Wednesday, the highest number since March.
Britain has been one of Europe’s hardest hit countries with a death toll of 148,089.
The government opened large “Nightingale” field hospitals in places like exhibition centers during the first wave of the virus. The facilities named after the nursing pioneer Florence Nightingale were not much used and the staff was a problem due to their huge size.
This time, the plan is to make as many as 4,000 “super-surge beds” available, in some cases using existing hospital facilities such as fitness centers or training centers.
Health Minister Sajid Javid said: “We hope that the Nightingale Surge Centers in hospitals will not be used, but it is absolutely right that we prepare for all scenarios and increase capacity”.
Doctors warned of increasing staff shortages due to people being sick with the virus or self-isolating.
Pat Cullen, general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing’s professional body and union, told Sky News: “At this point, we have no idea how to staff these extra hubs as they are set up,” she said.
Chris Hopson, head of NHS Providers, which represents some healthcare sectors, warned that in some areas, staff absenteeism due to COVID means there are “significant numbers of ambulances off the road”.
England is the exception among British nations in not introducing extra virus restrictions during the Christmas period, while Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have imposed limits on how many people can socialize together and closed nightclubs.
The British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that the high booster consumption rate in England plus evidence that Omicron is milder has allowed the country to avoid more restrictions.
He has encouraged people to get tested before attending New Year’s events and to be “sensible”.
The number of people testing positive or in self-isolation is affecting sectors, including transportation.
The Southern Railway Company announced on Thursday that it will not run trains from London’s Victoria station, one of Britain’s busiest, until January 10 due to “coronavirus isolation and disease”.