The Nightingale hospitals remain vacant despite hospitals across the country struggling to meet with growing demands on the health service. A third national lockdown was implemented on January 4 in a bid to protect the NHS from being overwhelmed as coronavirus cases rise, but many have been quick to note that the seven Nightingale Hospitals are not being used. But why is this the case?
For the first time since April, the UK has reported more than 1,000 Covid-related deaths in a day.
On Wednesday, January 6, there were 62,322 new cases of Covid-19 which is the highest figure reported since testing became more widely available.
The growth in the rate of infection has increased massively, meaning around one in 50 people are not infected with the virus in England.
On Monday, Mr Johnson said the new Covid variant is 50 to 70 percent more transmissible leading to an increase in the case rate of 70 percent in the two weeks to December 30.
The rapid increase in cases is causing pressure on hospitals to rise dramatically.
Official statistics show there were 30,451 patients in hospital as of January 6, with 2,645 on ventilation.
An additional 3,179 patients were confirmed to be admitted to hospital on Wednesday.
London hospitals are at the centre of the crisis with more Covid patients being admitted each day than were admitted at the height of the first wave in April.
Doctors, nurses and NHS staff claim they are at breaking point.
The medical director of NHS England London Dr Vin Diwakar said the sheer numbers of people becoming seriously unwell with Covid could see the capital’s hospitals facing a shortfall of anything between 1,932 and 5,422 beds by January 19.
Under the best-case scenario, London would have a shortfall of 417 critical care beds.
Under the average scenario, there would be a shortfall of 655 beds.
But under the worst-case scenario, hospitals in London could have a shortfall of 945 beds.
In a statement to Dr Diwakar said: “Hospitals in London are coming under significant pressure from high Covid-19 infection rates, which is why they have opened hundreds of surge critical care beds and are planning to open more, including opening the London Nightingale.”
The HSJ report reads: “Options that have been floated include very significantly reducing the number of non-Covid patients by cancelling more elective work and/or sending those patients to other regions or private providers, in the capital or elsewhere.”
NHS says London’s Nightingale hospital remains ‘on standby’ [INSIGHT]
Nightingale hospital: Is the Nightingale hospital open now? [EXPLAINER]
Hancock in furious row as he insists Nightingale ‘not dismantled’ [ANALYSIS]
But despite this shortfall of available beds, the Nightingale Hospitals across the UK remain closed.
The Nightingale sites opened across England during 2020 including in Manchester, Bristol, Sunderland, Harrogate, Exeter, Birmingham and London – at a cost of £220 million.
The Nightingale Hospital at London’s Excel Centre will reopen at an estimated 1.5 percent of its original capacity next week.
The emergency hospital, with 4,000 beds, will have space enough for 60 non-Covid patients when it reopens.
However, more Nightingale hospitals are unable to open due to the issue with staffing.
British Medical Association leader Dr Chaand Nagpaul said the main cause of NHS pressure is staffing issues.
Dr Nagpaul said: “We have 80,000 vacancies. You just can’t have a doctor or nurse in two sites at once.”
People across social media have been quick to condemn not using the Nightingale facilities.
One person tweeted: “How can they build the nightingale hospitals at the cost of millions, never use them, decommission them, and then impose 3 lockdowns on because the ‘NHS will collapse.’?”
On Twitter another person wrote: “Simple question I want answered and why is no one asking it, why did they close the Nightingale hospitals when the NHS is under all this pressure, they say its worse than March, yet they built them then because it was out of control, now they are ignoring them.”
Another user wrote: “But…but…. did we not already spend £ millions converting ExCel into a Nightingale Hospital, to cope with those expected squillions of COVID victims?”
One person tweeted: “@BorisJohnson_MP Why is the London Nightingale hospital not operational, and why is the government lying about its status?”
Another person wrote: “@Conservatives @MattHancock @BorisJohnson why are hospitals under pressure when this happens every year, when you had 10 months to prepare, when you’ve had nightingale hospitals dismantled? Inept, incompetent, extremely poor leadership throughout cabinet and NHS exec”.
On Twitter user wrote: “This is shameful for any #Society Let alone a very wealthy one. We have beds a plenty in #NightingaleHospitals #StaySafe”.
Another added: “I see the London Nightingale hospital idea has been a waste of time, money and resources and has just been a very costly PR exercise. Under 300 beds are now being prepared (was 4,000) for non Covid patients but still no opening date. #notransparency”.
Intensive care professor Rupert Pearse told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We would normally want one fully trained intensive care nurse per intensive care patient, right now we’re down to one nurse to three and filling those gaps with untrained staff.
“And we’re now faced with diluting that even further to one in four and as intensive care doctors we’re not sure how together we can deliver the quality of care we need to.
“The problem’s not just in London, the problem’s now spreading across the UK.”
He added: “I never thought in my entire career that I might say something like this but yes I do.
“Unless we take the lockdown seriously the impact on healthcare for the whole country could be catastrophic. And I don’t say those words lightly.”
Dr Nick Scriven, the former president of the Society for Acute Medicine said: “It is not ‘just the case’ of using the Nightingale hospital as there are simply no staff for them to run as they were originally intended.
“They could play a role perhaps if used as rehabilitation units for those recovering but, again, where do we find the specialist staff – the NHS simply does not have the capacity to spare anyone.”
Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth criticised the Government for failing to staff the hospital.
He tweeted: “Health & care services suffered years of Tory underfunding, bed reductions, understaffing, public health cuts, wasteful privatisation & tendering, social care savaged.
“Now Boris dithers again while NHS in crisis, beds filling up, oxygen supplies under pressure & staff exhausted.
“And it seems Nightingales are quietly being dismantled because there isn’t enough staff to keep them open safely.
“These were opened at great expense and fanfare.
“But the reality is years of Tory failures to invest in training and staffing has left the NHS short of staff needed.”
Express.co.uk has contacted NHS England for comment.
Help us to become independent in PANDEMIC COVID-19. Contribute to diligent Authors.