An emergency center is being set up in London to deal with a potential new wave of Covid hospital admissions as cases remain high.
Eight surge hubs will be established across the UK, each with a capacity of around 100 patients.
Work on the acute so-called ‘Nightingale’ hospitals is set to begin as early as this week, and more sites could be set up to add an additional 4,000 beds.
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The London hub will be in St George’s University Hospitals in Tooting, south London, The Mirror reported.
The others are in Leeds, Stevenage, Kent, Bristol, Birmingham and Preston.
The move comes as hospitals use hotels, hospices and nursing homes to safely discharge as many people who are medically fit to leave as possible – and free up beds for those who need them most.
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NHS National Medical Director Professor Stephen Powis said: “Given the high level of Covid-19 infections and rising hospitalizations, the NHS is now at war.
“We do not yet know exactly how many of those who get the virus will need hospital treatment, but given the number of infections, we can not wait to find out before we act, and therefore the work begins in day to ensure that these facilities are in place.
“We never hoped to use the original Nightingales, and I hope we never have to use those new hubs.”
The new Nightingale facilities – staffed by a mix of hospital consultants, nurses and other clinical and non-clinical staff – are designed to take patients who, although not fit for discharge, need minimal support and supervision while recovering from illness.
The NHS Trusts have also been tasked with identifying locations, such as gyms and training centers, along with other locations that could be converted to accommodate up to 4,000 “super surges” – about four times the number at a typical large district hospital.
Health Minister Sajid Javid said: “We hope that the Nightingale Surge Centers in hospitals will not be used, but it is quite right that we prepare for all scenarios and increase capacity.”
An NHS national agreement with Hospice UK will also see up to 4,800 people a day who need ongoing monitoring but do not need to be in hospital, receive support in either hospice bed or through Hospice @ Home teams.
The NHS is also increasing the use of virtual wards, where patients receive monitoring technology and regular check-in at clinicians. GPs also have access to up to 250,000 pulse oximeters – devices that can read blood oxygen levels by scanning a fingertip – so Covid-19-positive patients can monitor their own blood oxygen levels at home and ensure that only those who have need it, being admitted to the hospital.
Chris Hopson, CEO of NHS Providers – the member organization for NHS trusts in the UK, said: “Based on past experience in the pandemic, trusts identify additional capacity at existing hospital sites that could be converted to super wave capacity if required.