Birmingham Nightingale Hospital could be used for non-coronavirus operations

Birmingham Nightingale Hospital could be used for operations if it is not needed for coronavirus patients, it has been said.

The new temporary NHS Nightingale Birmingham Hospital at the NEC in Birmingham. Photo: Jacob King/PA Wire
The new temporary NHS Nightingale Birmingham Hospital at the NEC in Birmingham. Photo: Jacob King/PA Wire

But Dr David Rosser, chief executive of University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, said the temporary hospital, which opened yesterday in the NEC exhibition centre, is not as good as a bed in a hospital "by a long stretch".

He said: "We are a long way from running out of capacity, we are very confident we can deal with all the Covid-19 patients who need ventilation in Birmingham and the Midlands.

"It is possible that some patients will have to be moved from one hospital to another, but we are very confident that the hospitals have enough capacity.

"It wouldn't take a great deal to get this curve going the wrong way again.

"But speaking optimistically there's no obvious reason why we would get into big trouble with capacity in our hospitals.

"We are increasingly confident that we will be able to cope with this first surge."

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Speaking about the Birmingham Nightingale Hospital, he added: "If we do get into a situation where we can use it for more planned care and not emergency Covid care we could build operating theatres there, once you've got an operating theatre you can do lots of operations.

"It really comes down to looking at the facility, and the facility, like a lot of things in this very strange world we're living in at the moment, it depends on which perspective you look at it from.

"It's an extraordinary achievement and very impressive when you stand there, and for me it's a much better facility than I possibly thought we could put together in two weeks."

Dr Rosser said only patients who would spend a couple of nights in the Nightingale would stay there.

He added: "Is it as good as a bed in a hospital? No, not by a long stretch.

"It remains fundamentally a warehouse with beds in it.

"We would use it for patients who are expected to spend two nights at the most there.

"It fills none of the criteria of a dementia-friendly ward.

"It doesn't go dark at night, it wouldn't be easy to get a good sleep.

"It's not a surprise it's a compromise."

The hospital is the second of seven planned Nightingale NHS facilities to open, after the first became operational at London’s ExCel centre.

With 500 beds already installed, the NEC-based field hospital, which has its own mortuary and pop-up Tesco shop, could be increased to take up to 4,000 people if needed.

It has yet to take its first patients since becoming fully operational on April 10, with clinicians hoping it will never reach anything like capacity.

More than 400 civilian contractors, together with military personnel and about 500 clinical staff, have been involved in the setting-up.

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