London’s new coronavirus facility’s maximum capacity will also be 13% lower than publicised – and will be staffed in part by students, retirees and volunteers
The new temporary coronavirus hospital NHS Nightingale opens tomorrow in London, after the emergency conversion of the Excel London exhibition centre. The government and Establishment media have claimed that the new facility will provide 4,000 beds in two mega-wards of 2,000 beds each.
However, the reality is different – both in the near and long term.
The SKWAWKBOX asked the NHS how many of the 4,000 beds would have ventilators – the English NHS has only around 8,000 in total against an anticipated need for 30,000. Orders have been placed – with manufacturers who do not currently produce ventilators.
No answer was received. However, a call this evening with NHS England’s duty press officer revealed that the hospital’s capacity will not be 4,000 beds but 3,500 – 12.5% less than publicised.
“There is currently no timescale for the facility to reach this capacity – nor for it to have 2,800 ventilators.”
Of those, the plan is for around 2,800 of those to ultimately be equipped with ventilators, with the remaining beds either ‘step-down’ or admission beds.
There is currently no timescale for the facility to reach this capacity – nor for it to have 2,800 ventilators.
However, tomorrow NHS Nightingale will open with 500 beds – but the NHS was unable to confirm how many will be equipped with ventilators, although a press spokesman said he ‘would expect’ that it would be in similar proportions to the eventual full capacity.
Michael Gove said on Tuesday that ‘the first of thousands’ of new ventilators will be delivered to the NHS next week. The total to be delivered next week was subsequently confirmed as by shocked BBC News anchor Jane Hill as… 30:
An NHS nurse who has been re-allocated to critical care told the SKWAWKBOX today that in normal circumstances ventilator training continues for several months – but that she had received just six hours instruction in how to use one.
The NHS said that additional staff were being given short courses in basic ventilator use, but insisted that experienced operators will be overseeing new operators.
When asked where the government intended to obtain enough experienced operators to oversee 30,000 ventilators – the NHS’s normal number of critical care beds with ventilators is only 4,000 – the NHS said that it would pull in other types of staff with ventilator experience, such as anaesthetists.
In 2016, the NHS was on track to have 8,000 anaesthetists in total – by 2033.
Students, retirees, volunteers
On Thursday night, the NHS issued a press release stating that new ‘Nightingales’ are planned for Harrogate and Bristol, in addition to those already announced for Manchester and Birmingham. In total, the new facilities will have ‘up to’ 4,500 beds.
The SKWAWKBOX asked how the London Nightingale and the others would be staffed, given the well-known shortages in nursing and medical staff from which the NHS suffered even before the coronavirus crisis. Student nurses told the SKWAWKBOX today that students are being ‘drafted’ to staff them.
The NHS confirmed that final-year medical and nursing students will receive emergency registration to work in coronavirus wards, under supervision – and that it hopes to make up the remaining numbers from returning retirees and the armed forces, with volunteers carrying out non-clinical tasks.
The NHS is ‘not putting numbers on’ how many staff it will need for the new facility. It confirmed that medical and nursing students will be intubating patients and caring for sedated, intubated patients.
NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said last month that students will only be ‘invited’ to register for the front line. However, the student nurses who spoke to the SKWAWKBOX felt they had little choice but to do so and were effectively being ‘drafted’. Nurses have raised safety concerns and have asked for assurances about the type of tasks students will be asked to carry out.
The NHS insisted that there are no plans to take staff from existing hospitals for the new units.
Any additional capacity for treating the thousands of coronavirus sufferers who will become critically ill in the coming weeks and months is of course welcome.
But the devil is always in the detail – and this government’s headline figures again bear no relation to what is actually going to become available tomorrow – and it would be foolish to assume that the new facilities outside London will have the full ‘up to’ numbers the government is putting in its propaganda.
Given the snail’s pace at which the Tories have moved in obtaining new ventilators, there is no reason to believe that whatever beds do become available will have the full numbers of ventilators they will need either.
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