NHS Nightingale hospitals may treat non-coronavirus patients after victims turned away

The UK government commissioned seven of the temporary care facilities to increase capacity amid the pandemic.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace suggested that empty beds at the facilities could be “re-purposed” for other essential treatments.

He suggested that cancer treatment, cancelled operations and “step-down” COVID-19 patients may need the hospitals.

Mr Wallace told defence select committee members the clinical advice at the start of the pandemic was ventilation was key so the hospitals were built with that in mind.

He said: “I think as this virus has developed and treatment measures have matured, some people have realised it is not all about ventilation.

“I think the next stage is – is there capability we could use for stepdown, recovery patients, primary care patients, cancer patients?”

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The Nightingale facilities have a capacity for 11,000 patients.

The ExCel Centre hospital has so far treated only 41 patients.

The hospital was forced to turn away 50 patients with COVID-19.

It was claimed that 30 had been rejected as there wasn’t enough critical nurses at the hospital, according to documents seen by The Guardian.

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The NHS has not provided data yet on how many people have been treated at Birmingham, Manchester and North Yorkshire, although the figure is believed to be dozens at best.

This means the total number of patients treated at the four sites could be under 100.

The NHS has already praised staff for freeing up more than 30,000 hospital beds, meaning it has not yet had to make ‘extensive use of the Nightingale London’.

Bosses have insisted that the Nightingale centres have always been intended as a ‘backup’ should other intensive care units fill up, which has not yet happened.

A health source said the NHS was looking at ‘re-purposing’ Nightingales to carry out other vital work.

The source said: “The Nightingale hospitals have been an extraordinary success story.

“People said the NHS capacity was going to be overwhelmed and it hasn’t been.

“Thankfully, the spare capacity has not been needed at this juncture.

“We are not out of the woods yet.

“But people are beginning to think about whether we might be able to start doing some of the things that we have had to stop doing and clearing some of the backlog.”

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It comes as Ministers begin to look at an exit strategy for coronavirus lockdown measures.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock declared to MP’s yesterday that the UK is “past the peak” of infections.

He also said to MP’s yesterday that the NHS has “for the first time” more than 3,000 spare critical care beds.

He stressed: “That is more than three times more than we had at the start of this crisis.”

The UK has so far seen 133,495 coronavirus cases.

Of that number 18,100 have died after contracting the virus.

Wednesday April 22 saw 4,451 new cases and 763 new deaths.

The figures are steady from last week, which saw 4,603 cases and 761 deaths.

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