• Plans for temporary hospital in north east put on hold
  • 500-bed facility in Sunderland was under consideration, HSJ understands
  • Fears raised region is “being lulled into a false sense of security”

NHS England has paused a decision on a temporary hospital for coronavirus patients in the north east due to concerns over lack of projected demand, HSJ understands.

Potential plans for the region — which sources told HSJ included a potential 500-bed facility in the industrial unit near Nissan’s Sunderland car factory — were halted on 1 April. 

However, HSJ understands the region’s acute chiefs are still keen to explore options for a surge facility so they can react if the situation changes. 

One local NHS leader told HSJ they feared the north east, where 124 covid-related deaths — or around 4 per cent of England’s total covid-19 deaths — have so far been reported, is “being lulled into a false sense of security, because the storm [is] not fully hitting here yet, but it might”.

Another leader in the north east expressed doubt a temporary hospital in the region will ever be signed off or fully commissioned despite several weeks of preparatory work. They told HSJ: “The field hospitals [plan] feels like a right mess”.

There are also doubts as to whether a temporary hospital in the south east will go ahead. HSJ understands several sites in the region had been considered — including the Kent Event Centre near Maidstone, which Army logistics experts visited this week — but no decision has yet been announced.

NHSE announced this morning that new Nightingale hospitals will be built in Bristol and Harrogate — the latter having previously been reported by HSJ — to provide hundreds of extra beds if local services need them to handle the coronavirus crisis. They will be in addition to previously announced NHS Nightingale Hospitals in London, Manchester and Birmingham.

NHSE declined to comment specifically on the plans for the north east, and instead said it would “make an announcement when the location of any further Nightingale hospital is confirmed”.