• London’s covid-19 hospital is to be largely mothballed until a second peak of infections
  • The facility, the first of its kind in England, will accept no new patients
  • Temporary facilities in Birmingham and Yorkshire have not treated patients

London’s Nightingale Hospital is to be mothballed until a second peak, after seeing only a fraction of the patients first envisaged.

Staff at the temporary hospital in east London were told this morning that the facility at the Excel conference centre would not be accepting new patients for the time being. HSJ understands there are still some patients in the facility but that it will move into “standby for a second peak”.

It is unclear whether NHS England still plans to use the Nightingale to help London’s hospitals restore some of their typical services, such as elective surgery, as well as coping with rising emergency demand as social distancing measures are relaxed. There has been a major reduction in normal hospital activity during the coronavirus outbreak.

The move comes after weeks of speculation about whether the hospital was needed, as the rest of the capital’s hospitals expanded their intensive care capacity and the number of cases needing ventilators was fewer than initially feared.

The London Nightingale was the first in England to be opened, with others following across the country. Temporary hospitals in Birmingham and Harrogate have not treated any patients, and are also being kept ready for a second peak of hospitalisations but has not treated any patients. A facility in Manchester has had just a handful of admissions.

The facility had originally been designed to treat up to 4,000 patients, with senior management drawn largely from Barts Health Trust.

Some senior figures in the London health economy believe the Nightingale should have been used as a step-down facility to avoid discharging potentially covid-19 positive patients back to care homes, which are much less equipped to withstand an outbreak.

Data released over the past week has shown a significant increase in the number of reported deaths in care homes.