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Plans considered to use "very restricted" on-standby Nightingale Hospital in Bristol

Picture credits: NHS Nightingale

Potential interim uses for Bristol’s pop-up Nightingale hospital to meet local needs are being considered while it is on standby. 

Regional and national NHS bosses will need to agree on any new way forward for the “very restricted” facility, which will need extra investment to implement. 

NHS England this week refused to confirm the cost of creating a field hospital at the University of the West of England’s Frenchay campus, or what the running costs have been. 

It was built in less than three weeks in April to provide 300 intensive care beds for coronavirus patients, but was never used and was put into standby on June 30. 

Updating the Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire clinical commissioning group’s governing body this week, Professor Peter Brindle said: “Nightingale capacity is a very live issue at the moment. There are a number of different proposals we could consider. 

“The challenge is it’s a very restricted facility. 

“At the moment it’s only really capable of looking after people who are unconscious and have Covid. At the moment we don’t have any of those at all. 

“Anything we want to do differently will require extra investment. 

“A team is collecting ideas and business cases. We may not end up going with any of them.”

CCG chief exec Julia Ross added: “Of course we want to use that facility that’s there for use. It’s about going through the right process so whatever we need to use it for is appropriate. 

“If we can, we want to use it. It’s got capacity for us.” 

A spokesperson for the Nightingale confirmed that potential interim uses for the hospital were being explored “to support the NHS during this phase of its response to Covid-19”. 

Tim Whittlestone, its medical director, said: “We are actively discussing with our NHS colleagues across the region how we can best use our facilities during our standby period to support their clinical and non-clinical work while maintaining our ability to stand up to provide care with compassion to critically ill people with Covid-19 when needed. 

“Our focus is on making the best use of our resources for the benefit of all and a cost/benefit analysis will be considered for all proposals.”

Marie-Noelle Orzel, the chief officer, said any decision about its future will be in the hands of its programme board and the chief execs of hospital trusts from Gloucestershire to Somerset. It would also be subject to approval from the North Bristol Trust and NHS England and Improvement. 

Responding to a freedom of information request on the costs of the Nightingale, NHS England said releasing the details now risked putting “duplicated or inaccurate” information into the public domain but they would be published “soon”. 

A previous FoI request revealed that the bill to build England’s seven Nightingales was £220million. 

Reports suggest Bristol’s cost between £5.4million and £16million.

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