The flagship hospital at the ExCeL centre will start admitting recovering emergency care patients who have tested negative for coronavirus in the coming days, but it will not have all its beds available for patients until next month.
A spokesman for NHS England did not deny they had significantly cut the number of beds, and said the number would be determined ‘by the demand and availability of staff’.
The seven Nightingales were left largely unused during the first wave despite £220million of taxpayers’ money being pumped into them, as hospitals struggled to spare the needed doctors and nurses to man their wards. Just 57 Covid-19 patients were admitted to London’s Nightingale, Department of Health figures show.
The NHS also admitted the emergency facility would be used for non-Covid patients, despite millions being poured into equipping it with ventilators during the first wave for those suffering the worst effects of the virus.
‘It will provide rehabilitation for people who are recovering after an emergency hospital stay and who are not Covid positive, freeing up other beds in hospital for Covid-19 patients,’ they said.
The Nightingale in the capital’s ExCeL Centre is currently ‘on standby’.
The hospital was built to much fan-fare during the first wave of the pandemic, with Health Secretary Matt Hancock heralding it a ‘remarkable feat in these challenging times’.
But it was left idling for months after barely a month in use, before the order to start stripping the hospital was given – as clearly shown by shocking photos from inside it last month revealing empty wards.
Frantic efforts were then launched to re-construct a ‘scaled-down’ version of the mothballed hospital, sources said, at further expense to the public purse.
It comes as London’s hospitals are treating more Covid-19 patients than they did during the first wave of the crisis, official figures reveal.
There was an average of 5,061 patients suffering from the disease in hospital beds on April 8, but this was exceeded on December 29, when as many as 5,130 were in the capital’s beds.
Britain has recorded more than 50,000 Covid-19 infections for the sixth day in a row, in an alarming sign the second wave of the pandemic is gathering speed. As many as 54,990 cases and 454 deaths from the virus have been recorded in the last 24 hours.
Boris Johnson warned this morning tougher restrictions were on the horizon for England after plunging four-fifths of the country into Tier 4 – forcing the closure of non-essential shops and gyms.
NHS London Nightingale was hurriedly put up in less than two weeks in March, amid fears the capital’s hospitals could be overwhelmed by spiralling Covid-19 admissions.
It was opened to patients on April 3 by Prince Charles, and welcomed its first patient four days later.
Professor Richard Schilling, a consultant cardiologist, tweeted a photo to mark the event as the first team came on duty.
But within six weeks the hospital had been moved to ‘standby’ and ordered to close its doors.
Department of Health figures reveal only 57 patients were admitted to the emergency hospital, with the final patients being received on April 27.
By May 6, shortly before it was due to close, the Government dashboard shows only five patients remained at the facility.
The emergency facility has been left dormant for months, before hospital chiefs decided the extra capacity would again be needed in the new year.
Shocking photos reveal that in this time the Nightingale – put up at huge expense to taxpayers – had been stripped of its beds and wards while it was officially mothballed.
They revealed it was virtually deserted, with empty conference rooms stripped of vital beds and ventilators, while the corridors lay eerily silent. Outside, signs directing ambulances to wards had also been removed.
Doctors had warned when they were first constructed there were not enough medics available to staff the London Nightingale, or others in the country.
Dr Samantha Batt-Rawden, an intensive care medic and president of Doctors’ Association UK, held ministers feet to the fire last week when she said they had failed to listen to warnings there were too few medics to keep the facilities open.
‘As a doctor who volunteered for the Nightingale I can’t tell you how much effort went into it,’ she said, ‘but (intensive care) staff are wafer thin on the ground’.
‘We had warned of a staffing crisis in (intensive care) before the pandemic. The Government didn’t listen.’
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