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I find the following statements and information very reassuring.

The Nightingale North East hospital is part of a nationwide effort being coordinated by NHS England and the Department of Health and Social Care, as part of the national response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The facility was launched in May, at the Centre of Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing, on the International Advanced Manufacturing Park (IAMP), near Nissan’s Washington car plant.  Since then, however, it is yet to treat a single patient.

It has been transformed into a 20-ward hospital, including eight intensive care wards, and gives the North East the capacity to care for another 460 coronavirus patients if hospitals are filled.  Up to 2,500 staff members could be working at the hospital if it reaches full capacity.

The 460-bed facility will only start taking patients if the region’s hospitals are unable to cope with a potential surge of Covid-19 cases that require hospital treatment.

David Chandler, chief finance officer at Sunderland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), speaking at a meeting of Sunderland City Council’s (SCC) Health and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee, said, “It’s for the wider system and very much last resort.”

“It’s not something we’re planning to use, it’s an emergency fall back and all plans are to look to not have to use it unless we have a very significant wave two scenario.”

Similar facilities set up across the country, to step in if the NHS was overwhelmed by a surge in patients, have been mothballed following a slowing in the rate of virus transmission.

Whilst fears have been raised, of the potential for a fresh surge in COVID-19 cases coinciding with a bad flu season and other ‘winter pressures’, bosses remain hopeful the centre, in Washington, will not be needed.

I was surprised to read that some people consider the Nightingale hospitals a waste of time, money and resources.

Surely they were created as a form of insurance, which has been a necessary evil for centuries.  Some people lose out, paying premiums against a risk that never materialises.  Others gain by receiving money to cover losses as a result of a disaster of some kind.

With the relaxing of rules and guidelines and children returning to school, there are already signs the number of Coronavirus cases are on the increase.

Let us hope that the Nightingale hospitals are eventually dismantled without having treated any patients.  In my humble opinion, the cost will have been money well spent.

John Lightfoot MBE, Solar Solve Chairman