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A little over 4 months ago, on 8th September last year, I blogged about the Nightingale hospitals that some people considered had been a waste of time, money and resources and some still do.

Within my 8 September blog I wrote that I was surprised to read the negative remarks, saying:-

Surely the hospitals were created as a form of insurance and 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.

Fast forward 4 months and we now have a situation whereby we are being advised there is a strong possibility the hospitals and NHS will be overwhelmed within a couple of weeks.  I assume that is when the Nightingale hospitals will come into their own and made ready for use.

Looking into this, I am not really surprised to once again read conflicting reports.  The world seems to revolve on conflicting reports.

Hospitals are currently seeing more Covid-19 patients than at the first peak of the virus in April, and NHS England sent a letter to trusts on December 23 asking them to plan for the use of additional facilities amid rising numbers of patients with the virus.

From my research, the reality appears to be that whilst staffing the hospitals is certainly going to be a very big problem, most of them are still ready to be brought into use as planned.  However that was not obvious when I began my research, with a lot of newspapers overstating the negative aspects of London’s NHS Nightingale Hospital being stripped of some beds and equipment.  Later, a spokesperson for the NHS said: “The Nightingale in London remains on standby and will be available to support the capital’s hospitals if needed.”

The current ‘waste of money’ complaint is mainly aligned with the perception of some folk that there will never be enough trained staff or volunteers to service all 7 hospitals at anywhere near full capacity and that the issue should have been taken into account and worked on, when the preparation of the hospitals began.

I read elsewhere that Birmingham and Sunderland’s Nightingale sites are said to be empty but on standby (ready to open in 72 hours, if needs be), while Manchester’s is open for “non-Covid-19 care”, Harrogate’s is being used as a “specialist diagnostics centre” and Bristol’s deployed for “local NHS services”.

Meanwhile the 116-bed NHS Nightingale hospital in Exeter, built on the site of a former retail park, was set up to provide extra capacity to support existing NHS services across the south west and received its first coronavirus patients in November 2020.

That would appear to imply that 6 of the 7 hospitals that were set up are available to do what is expected of them, with only London being an unknown entity at this time.  However the staffing of them does loom as something that will have to be addressed if the complainers are not to be proved right in this case.

Going back to a comment in my blog on 8th September: when the hospitals are eventually closed, if they were not used because of a lack of trained staff, then the cost of setting them up will certainly not have been money well spent.

John H Lightfoot MBE