Will provide extra hospital capacity in event of continued Covid wave
Hospitals struggling to cope with latest wave of the virus
A coronavirus "surge hub" is to be set up in St. George’s Hospital in Tooting as the NHS braces for a wave of admissions due to the Omicron strain of Covid-19.
It is one of eight temporary "Nightingale" units across the country which will each cater for around 100 patients, with building already underway. The St. George’s unit will be the only one in London.
The hubs will not be for critical patients but will cater to those that are about to be discharged and need minimal support.
There is an additional plan to identify sites for a further 4,000 beds if the virus continues to spread at the current rate.
The move was made as Covid-19 case numbers hit record levels before Christmas and NHS medical director Prof Stephen Powis described the health service as being on a "war footing".
Hospitalisations in England with Covid have risen above 10,000 for the first time since March and record infection rates are believed to be a good indicator of rising admissions ahead even though the evidence suggests that vaccinated people have a relatively low chance of becoming seriously ill.
The move to create the surge hubs has been criticised in some quarters with some pointing out that the main issue for the NHS at the moment is a lack of staff as many have been forced off work due to the need to self-isolate.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said that the move was needed to be prepared for every scenario but that he hoped that the hubs would not be needed.
Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers said that the units were a “back up insurance policy".
Nightingale units were set up in venues across the country during the first wave of the virus but were not used. Part of the reason they were not utilised is that hospitals were reluctant to lend them staff but, this time with the units on the same premises, it is hoped that personnel and equipment will be readily available if needed.
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January 5, 2022