New NHS Nightingale units planned in the Midlands to tackle Omicron admissions

New Nightingale surge hubs will be set up at hospitals across the Midlands to prepare for a potential wave of Omicron admissions.

The NHS says the temporary structures, capable of housing around 100 patients, will be built on the grounds of eight hospitals across the country - three of them being in the Midlands.

Work could start as early as this week on the hubs at Solihull Hospital - part of University Hospitals Birmingham and Leicester General Hospital which is part of University Hospitals Leicester.

The NHS says placing the new Nightingale facilities in hospital grounds will make it easier to move staff and equipment if there is a surge in admissions.

NHS Trusts have also been asked to identify areas such as gyms and education centres that can be converted to accommodate patients.

Pat Cullen is the Chief Executive of the Royal College of Nursing.

She concerned this could put pressure on an already 'exhausted' workforce.

"You're utilising the same workforce that is already spread really thin on the ground and really struggling to provide the care and treatment that they are trying to do for their patients in the current circumstances.

"What we're going to do is open up four thousand additional beds and try to spread our workforce even thinner.

"Our concern is how do we get an already exhausted workforce to spread themselves even more across those four thousand beds?"

Coronavirus: What you need to know

NHS national medical director Professor Stephen said: “Given the high level of COVID-19 infections and increasing hospital admissions, the NHS is now on a war footing.

“We do not yet know exactly how many of those who catch the virus will need hospital treatment, but given the number of infections we cannot wait to find out before we act and so work is beginning from today to ensure these facilities are in place.

“We hoped never to have to use the original Nightingales and I hope we never to have to use these new hubs.

“Staff across the health service are working around the clock to provide the best possible care to patients and rollout the NHS Covid vaccination programme.

“The public can play their part by following the guidance to limit the spread of infection and by getting boosted now.

“The science is clear. Two doses of vaccine do not provide enough protection against Omicron so if you have not yet had a life-saving booster do not delay any longer.”

The first eight of the Nightingale surge hubs will be at the following hospitals:

  • North West – Royal Preston

  • North East and Yorkshire – Leeds, St James’ site

  • Midlands – 

    Solihull Hospital (part of University Hospitals Birmingham)

  • Leicester General Hospital (part of University Hospitals Leicester)

  • East of England – Lister Hospital, Stevenage

  • London – St George’s

  • South East – William Harvey Hospital, Ashford

  • South West – North Bristol


Vials of Pfizer/ BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine Credit: PA

How will Surge Hubs be used?

4,000 “super surge” beds will be created across the health service. By comparison, a large district hospital typically has around 500 beds.

Hospitals will activate them only after exhausting every other option, equipment previously used for the original Nightingale hospitals will be rapidly distributed to them.

The new Nightingale facilities would take patients who, although not fit for discharge, need minimal support and monitoring while they recover from illness, freeing up regular ward beds to provide care for those with more intensive needs.

Patients may include those recovering from COVID-19 who are no longer infectious and do not need intensive oxygen therapy.

The units would be led by hospital consultants and nurses, but with other clinical and non-clinical staff brought in with rapid training to be able to perform routine checks and other tasks. 

Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Sajid Javid said: “We’ve backed the NHS at every turn throughout this pandemic to make sure it provides the care and treatment people need. I want to thank the tireless efforts of our health workers on the frontline who are delivering for patients every day.

“We hope the Nightingale surge hubs at hospitals will not have to be used but it is absolutely right that we prepare for all scenarios and increase capacity.”