Nightingale Hospital North East remains as 'last resort' in event of second wave
Similar facilities set up across the country to step in if the NHS was overwhelmed by a surge in patients have been mothballed following a slowing in the rate of virus transmission.
And while fears have been raised of the potential for a fresh surge in COVID-19 cases coinciding with a bad flu season and other ‘winter pressures’, bosses remain hopeful the centre, in Washington, will not be needed.
“It’s for the wider system and very much last resort,” said David Chandler, chief finance officer at Sunderland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).
“The plan is very much that we will not want to use the Nightingale and instead it’s there if it’s needed.
“To staff it would be a challenge, but it’s not something you want to go to if you have to.
“It’s not something we’re planning to use, it’s an emergency fall back and all plans are to look to not have to use it unless we have a very significant wave two scenario.”
Chandler was speaking at a meeting of Sunderland City Council’s (SCC) Health and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee.
In August, it was revealed the NHS Nightingale Hospital North East, as it is officially known, would stay open until the end of March 2021, ready to deal with the impact of a sudden surge in confirmed cases in the region.
The facility was launched in May at the Centre of Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing, on the International Advanced Manufacturing Park (IAMP), near Nissan’s Washington car plant.
Since then, however, it is yet to treat a single patient.
Peter Sutton, accountable emergency officer at South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust (STSFT), added: “The Nightingale Hospital is still there as a resource for the North East, although hopefully we won’t need it.
“We’re currently in quite a healthy position, but it is there as a backstop.
“It would have to be discussed across the North East if we get to the point where capacity was particularly stretched – it isn’t just for Sunderland, it’s for the whole of the region.”