London’s Nightingale Hospital to close next month as coronavirus cases plummet across capital
The Nightingale Hospital at London’s Excel centre will close next month as hospital admissions and coronavirus cases continue to fall dramatically across the capital.
All seven Nightingale Hospitals across England will shutter from April, one year after they were built last spring in a bid to ease pressure on the NHS.
The temporary facilities, including the 4,000-bed repurposed hospital in London, went largely unused due to staff shortages. The NHS said they had been the “ultimate insurance policy”.
Chris Hopson, head of NHS Providers, added that they had been built to avoid a situation like that seen in northern Italy in spring last year, but would be a “success” if they were not used.
The temporary hospital in London was swiftly erected in just two weeks last March to deal with a spiralling number of admissions to intensive care during the first wave of coronavirus.
The hospital shuttered just six weeks later after treating just 20 patients, with the UK’s leading scientists saying it was ready to be “reactivated” if the capital saw a spike in infections.
It reopened in January as both a “step-down facility” for non-coronavirus patients and as a mass vaccination centre. The site will remain open to administer Covid jabs.
An NHS spokesperson said: “Since the very early days of the pandemic the Nightingale hospitals have been on hand as the ultimate insurance policy in case existing hospital capacity was overwhelmed but, as we have learned more about coronavirus, and how to successfully treat Covid, existing hospitals have adapted to significantly surge critical care capacity and even in the winter wave — which saw more than 100,000 patients with the virus admitted in a single month — there were beds available across the country.”
In a video posted on social media, health secretary Matt Hancock said the closure of the Nightingale hospitals was an “important moment in our national recovery”.
He added that the hospitals were a “monument to this country’s ability to get things done fast when it really matters” and played a “critical role” in the UK’s response to coronavirus.
It comes as coronavirus cases continue to plunge across the country alongside the rapid vaccine rollout.
The number of people admitted to hospital with Covid in England has fallen from a peak of 4,134 on 12 January to 623 on 2 March.
Meanwhile, hospital admissions in England among over-85s have fallen 90 per cent since the peak of the second wave, with just 90 admitted on 5 March —the first time daily admissions have been below 100 since October.
In London, hospitalisations have fallen significantly tenfold since the new year, from a record 977 admissions on 6 January to 95 on 2 March.
The dramatic drop reflects the combined impact of the ongoing lockdown and the rapid progress of the nation’s largest ever vaccine programme, which has seen all four top priority groups receive a first dose of a coronavirus jab.
The number of daily Covid cases in the UK fell to 4,712 yesterday — marking the lowest figure since September, and a significant drop since the start of this year, when more than 60,000 infections were recorded each day.
London has seen the sharpest drop in cases of any region in the country over recent weeks. Just 101 Covid infections were recorded yesterday, from a peak of 19,871 on 29 December.