London health officials have been urged to ‘prepare’ the city’s Covid-19 field hospital for patients as the number of cases in the UK continues to rise.
Hospitals in the capital are under significant pressure, a spokesperson for the National Health Service London told Sky News.
He said: ‘In anticipation of the pressures arising from the spread of the new variant of the infection, NHS London has been asked to ensure that the London Nightingale is reactivated and ready to admit patients as needed, and that the process is in progress.
The new variant, which was recently discovered in south-east England, is believed to spread more easily than other viral iterations. Many countries have closed their borders with the UK due to the variant, which has since been discovered around the world.
Official figures show 22,713 Covid-19 patients were being treated in English hospitals on Wednesday, including 5,524 in London. The UK as a whole reported 55,892 new positive test results on Thursday, a rate of 377 cases per 100,000 population.
London’s “Nightingale” field hospital, located at the ExCel convention center, was set up in early April to treat up to 4,000 patients. It is one of seven emergency sites designed to help relieve pressure on hospitals.
But the £ 220million facility has come under fire for treating relatively small numbers of patients. According to the temperature, Nightingales treated around 200 patients in total during the first wave of the pandemic. And fewer than 20 people were being treated at the London Nightingale when it was suspended in May, the BBC reports.
Covid-19 patients were turned away in the spring due to a lack of intensive care staff at the site, according to The Guardian.
Hospitals have been on hold as the number of cases skyrocketed in the UK, but some equipment, including beds and ventilators, has been moved from the London site, the BBC said.
On Tuesday, the Mail Online reported that only 28 Covid-19 patients are currently being treated at Nightingales. But an NHS spokesperson said the Manchester, Bristol and Harrogate field sites were being used to treat non-covid patients.
Dr Nick Scriven, former president of the Society for Acute Medicine, questioned the role of hospitals. He said, according to the BBC, “It is not ‘just the case’ to use Nightingale Hospital as there are simply no staff to keep them functioning as originally intended.
“Maybe they could play a role if they were used as rehabilitation units for those who are recovering but, again, where to find the specialist staff – the NHS just doesn’t have the capacity to spare anybody they it would be.”