• Plans emerging for new field hospitals throughout England
  • Large events centres in Harrogate and Kent being considered
  • A raft of sports centres also earmarked
  • No official confirmation from NHSE beyond three big city sites

Moves are taking place to set up a raft of temporary hospitals across England — in venues such as conference and sports centres — to create additional capacity for coronavirus patients.

HSJ has established the following venues are confirmed field hospital sites:

  • Harrogate Convention Centre: the scale and functions will be set out by NHS England in the coming days, HSJ understands.
  • Leisure centres in Cumbria, including the Whitehaven Sports Centre, The Sands Centre in Carlisle, Penrith Leisure Centre and Kendal Leisure Centre – adding an extra 500 beds to the local system. Work on these temporary hospitals begins today (1 April).

This is despite a refusal to confirm these moves centrally, and confusion at senior levels in some areas about whether they will go ahead and where. 

A range of other venues are also under consideration, HSJ understands. They include:

  • Kent Event Centre, near Maidstone, was inspected by army logistics staff on Tuesday. HSJ understands a decision is due on Thursday. The venue is the largest conference centre in the county and located between the M2 and M20, making it easily accessible by road and has large amounts of car parking on site.
  • Gatwick and Heathrow airports, where the drop in air traffic has left large areas unused.
  • The Brighton Centre, run by Brighton and Hove Council, is said to have been under consideration.
  • A site in Chineham, near Basingstoke, Hampshire, according to a report.
  • The East of England is expected to be served by a site in South Hertfordshire and a site in either Cambridge or Norwich, HSJ understands.

Talks are understood to be under way in several other parts of England.

So far NHS England has only officially confirmed plans for temporary “Nightingale hospitals” in London, Manchester and near Birmingham. One NHS chief executive involved in discussions said there was ongoing debate about demand modelling, clinical models, and whether the big city hospitals could be expected to serve other large parts of the country. 


An NHS spokesperson in Kent said: “The NHS is well prepared for situations of increased demand, as is being experienced now. As part of these preparations, we know that there may be a need for additional capacity to be made available, in certain circumstances. We are currently exploring a range of options around this, to ensure that the local NHS is able to deliver the care that people need.”

Lyn Simpson, North Cumbria Integrated Care FT chief executive, said: “We welcome the news that additional bed capacity will be available to us in the coming weeks in anticipation of increased demand on our services.

“We are very grateful for the fantastic response from our multi agency partners in securing this additional capacity, and we will now work together to plan how these facilities can be used.”

The additional beds will also provide more capacity for University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay FT. The trust’s medical director Dr Shahedal Bari said: ”I would like to thank each and every one of the multi-agency teams involved, who by working together have made it possible to establish these additional beds to support our patients during these unprecedented circumstances in Morecambe Bay.”