Nightingale hospitals ordered to ‘mobilise’ as UK sees ‘marked pick up’ in coronavirus cases
Nightingale hospitals in coronavirus hotspots are being “mobilised” ahead of a potential surge in admissions, government scientists said today.
The hospitals in Manchester, Sunderland and Harrogate have been ordered to prepare for the next phase of the pandemic, the NHS’s national medical director said.
Professor Stephen Powis said they were moving those hospitals into a “higher state of alert and readiness” and will do so with other Nightingale hospitals across the country if the need arises.
He also said they would be introducing regular testing for staff in high risk areas even when they do not have symptoms.
He told a briefing of health journalists: “To protect our staff and our patients we will be introducing – with tests provided by the Test and Trace service – regular testing for staff in these high-risk areas, even when they don’t have symptoms.
“This will help us keep staff and patients in those hospitals as safe as possible.
“Secondly, we have asked the Nightingale hospitals in Manchester, Sunderland and Harrogate to prepare for this next phase.
“They are being asked to mobilise over the next few weeks to be ready to accept patients if necessary.”
Professor Powis said that rising cases in the community were leading to rising hospital admissions. He said the country was now seeing “renewed growth in infection rates” with parts of the country such as the North West badly affected.
He also said it was “wishful thinking” to suggest that the elderly could be fenced off from the virus.
The scientists were outlining the facts before Boris Johnson makes a statement to the Commons this afternoon on a new tiered system of local coronavirus alert levels for England.
Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, the UK’s deputy chief medical officer, said there had been a “marked pick-up” in coronavirus cases which will result in more deaths.
He said: “Having had a rather flat summer, with very low amounts of Covid-positive patients in the UK, you can see that from early September there has been a marked pick-up.”
He also outlined the lag between identified cases and patients being admitted to hospital or dying.
He added: “The hospital admissions we have now actually relate to a time when there fewer cases of Covid-19.
“Already, with the cases that we know about, we have baked in additional hospital admissions and sadly we also have baked in additional deaths that are now consequent upon infections that have already happened.”
They were also joined by Dr Jane Eddleston, the Greater Manchester medical lead for a coronavirus data briefing.
The Prime Minister will also host a televised press conference this evening alongside chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty and Chancellor Rishi Sunak.