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Express & Star comment: Extraordinary times, extraordinary efforts

By Star Comment | Opinions | Published:

Extraordinary times require extraordinary efforts. And, for that matter, see extraordinary people rise to prominence.

The new temporary NHS Nightingale Birmingham Hospital at the NEC in Birmingham, which is being built to provide care for an increased number of patients requiring treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic. PA Photo. Picture date: Wednesday April 8, 2020. See PA story HEALTH Coronavirus. Photo credit should read: Jacob King/PA Wire

The creation of the vast new Nightingale Hospital in Birmingham, which opens today, has taken just a fortnight. Just imagine that – a hospital capable of taking nearly 500 patients being created in that short time. And that is just the start, as if and when needed it can be increased immediately to 800 beds, and if things get much worse, it is capable of being scaled up in phases to take 4,000.

It will take patients across a vast swathe of the Midlands.

In wartime, Britain was noted for its improvisation and its ability to “muddle through”. In this war, the Nightingale Hospital is a triumph of improvisation, but is not to be demeaned as muddling through as it has been driven with purpose and ingenuity to create a major hospital within the National Exhibition Centre.

Nobody can be sure of the course of events in the coming weeks, so it is an insurance policy against the region’s hospitals being overwhelmed. It will also relieve the pressure on them by taking Covid-19 patients who do not need the most complex care. In that respect, in that it will not take critically ill patients, Birmingham’s Nightingale Hospital is different from its counterpart in London.

Those acute cases will continue to be treated in the region’s hospitals, as currently they have enough capacity to cope. Long may that continue.

The new hospital is under the wing of Dr David Rosser who says it means that “everybody who needs a bed during this extraordinary period will get one”, and no repeat in the UK of “the scenes we saw in Italy and Spain”.

With the UK lagging timewise behind those countries in the Covid-19 explosion, we have been fortunate in the circumstances to have had a little more time to prepare, and to have learned from their terrible experiences.

The time bonus was short, but it has been well spent. The new hospital is a magnificent achievement.

The coronavirus outbreak has been a national and international disaster. It may well go down in history as the finest hour of the NHS.

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