Southmead Hospital selected as new Nightingale hub to cope with Omicron admissions

Beds and equipment on Nightingale ward
The new Nightingale hub would be similar to the temporary wards built for the first Covid wave.

Bristol's Southmead Hospital will become the site of a new Nightingale hub to cope with any surge of Omicron admissions.

The North Bristol NHS Trust has been chosen as one of eight locations across England to be on standby should the increase in the number of cases of the Covid variant lead to people needing hospital treatment.

The NHS say temporary structures each capable of housing around 100 patients will be erected in the grounds of the hospitals, in an effort to move staff and equipment between wards and the new facility.

At its peak, Southmead had around 250 Covid patients on its wards and needed to cancel some operations to cope with demand. The most recent figures show the number now is about 50.

A Trust spokesperson said: “With Covid rates now very high, the NHS across the area is preparing for a potential sharp increase in people needing hospital care.

“This includes creating additional space for beds at Southmead Hospital for the region if all other options are not enough.

“However, we hope this will never be needed and with vaccines our best weapon we urge everyone to get boosted now in their local centre.”

Staff at Southmead Hospital could be asked to care for around 100 patients in the Nightingale hub Credit: ITV News

Hospital leaders are now in urgent negotiations with NHS England and the Department of Health to establish how quickly their hub can be constructed and what it will require. As well as equipment and resources, the main concern could be over-staffing levels.

Of the 12,000 people who work at Southmead, sickness rates are relatively high and have increased in recent weeks.

Pat Cullen, Interim General Secretary and Chief Executive of the Royal College of Nursing said staff are already stretched filling in for sick colleagues or those who've left the profession.

"Every nurse will do their best as they have done throughout this pandemic to try to staff these beds and look after the patients who require the care and treatment in those beds, bit it will be a major challenge, there's no doubt about that," she said.

Some hospitals are using hotels, hospices and care homes to safely discharge as many people who are medically fit to leave as possible.

Unions have said staffing the new Nightingale hubs will be a 'major challenge' Credit: ITV News

NHS national medical director Professor Stephen Powis 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."

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.

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