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New NHS Nightingale facility opens today – with one-eighth of publicised beds and no confirmed ventilator numbers

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:

6-hour training

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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  1. Those nurses on their final year are also not being paid. They are still officially students for which they have paid £9,000 for their university courses and are classed as being on placement living off their student loans. They are not eligible for the £5,000 bursary which is being paid next September. These nurses are putting their lives on the line and can barely afford to eat.

    1. Nurses on placement, really? Atrocious.

      Next, they’ll be able to resource regular nursing posts with the army of volunteers, giving some of them internship status to preserve the illusion that the NHS is still a professionally resourced health-care provider.

      The NHS becomes more sell-able every day, which is, of course, the Conservatives’ underlying (sic) intention. Disaster capitalism under our very noses.

      1. OOOPS – “which is, of course, the Conservatives’ underlying (sic) intention“ was ‘UNDER-lie ing’ Until autocorrect kicked in.

        The Conservatives are using the coronavirus crisis as a neo-liberal opportunity.

    2. Putting incompletely-trained student nurses on the front line and in real danger while neglecting them so shamefully might make it difficult to fill nursing courses in future years.

      The Nightingale facility, presumably fitted out by people who normally build exhibition stands to short deadlines, may be fit for purpose or may not.
      It seems to me that the long rows of beds, apparently intended to allow fewer staff per patient, would also dramatically increase the distance they need to walk during a shift and exhaust them quickly.
      Just locating patients by name will be difficult enough – how staff will manage to treat patients as individuals in such a space I’ve no idea.
      I suspect it’ll be an extremely dispiriting place to be, knowing you’re just one of a thousand and seeing other patients being disconnected and wheeled out on their backs every hour or two.
      Curtains at the patient’s eye level so they don’t see more than a couple of other patients might improve their morale I think.

      I’d imagine that a doctor/consultant etc. could supervise the treatment of many more patients far more effectively using video and electronic monitoring of vital signs, and contact with nurses by audio earpiece – that would allow a more human spacing than a vast regimented warehouse of virtually nameless sick people.

      1. On the “curtains” comment, I hadn’t seen the photo at the top of this post, just the TV footage of the building of it before the screening partitions were installed.

  2. A new ‘Nightingale’ in Harrogate, eh?

    Right slap-bang in the centre of blue-rinse, die hard, toerag N. Yorkshire.

    I s’pose they’ve gotta be seen trying to save some of them, eh?

    1. ” blue-rinse, die hard, toerag N. Yorkshire”

      Reminiscent of Mr Toad’s simplistic generalising about Liverpool.

      Ever thought that areas like North Yorkshire have a lot of less obvious poverty in both rural and urban areas? And that various particular geographical factors add to the effects of that poverty?

      1. Oh that’s right – it’s where you’re from… That’s when you’re not from Gloucestershire, innit?

        You’re main contributor to poverty? Toerags. So I’ve no fucking sympathy if there are poor people in N.Yorkshire as they vote toerag…Just like the West Country, where there’s never any more than 3 labour mps in the entire region; and they’re bliarite.

  3. What the public is witnessing is 40 years of failed Neo Liberal policies which have failed the public, failed people running the NHS and most importantly of all failed the patients. Let’s not forget it’s not only the beastly Tories but also the New Labour version of the Tories which implemented the marketisation and the disastrous P.PFI that according to a 2011 Treasury report cost 2.5 times more than if solely financed from the public purse. Who gained why the financiers, the same people who are controlling the Tories and people like Alan Milburn. Moreover, when this crisis is passed the U.K, shall still have a woefully underfunded NHS and if Starmer becomes leader will give the public more of the same since he is backed by the same financial cabal that backs the scoundrels in Downing Street.

  4. I share most of Skwawkie’s concerns, but let’s not get this out of proportion. There are planety of theatre / anaesthetics nurses kicking around at the mo who have the basics (if not direct experience) of using ventilators. Also modern ventilators are highly sophisticated, and agency nurses, working under supervision, can master them over one shift.
    The key here is the quality of the supervision and management.
    It’s right to criticise this stupid, negligent government, but it does no favours to be seen as hysterical. Take a chill pill, stick to the facts, stick it to the tories.

    1. There are no centilators therefore no need for qualified or even trained staff. There will not be intubation.

      There may be, if there is any point at all to these medical concentration camps, palliative care in the form of large doses of morphine.

  5. I fouind the ‘Clap for the NHS’ yesterday a bit ironic, with Mr Toad et al. joining in.

    The best acclaim would have been not to vote for the Spivs in the first place.

    1. Funny had similar conversation with elderly woman in queue outside M&S this pm … basically she asked if we’d ever go back to normal , I responded I hope we go back to something much better than normal , it was crazy what we were doing to the planet and our NHS etc.
      She said you’re fxxxing well right there …… blew me bloody socks off !
      Little old dear and lets rip , still she probably was a boomer and hence from the swinging 60’s so great good on her , hope she survives it all.

  6. Also, are all these student nurses getting any legal protection in the event of them making a fatal error (God forbid); which, while catastrophic, could – and probably should – be mitigated by their lack of training.

    Talk about being thrown in at the deep end… It’s only right they get as much latitude as warranted.

    1. It’s beyond stupid to be putting student nurses in this position. They will be ‘legally protected’ by the vicarious liability of the NHS – but that won’t deal with the trauma of seeing many people die when they shouldn’t, let alone any that die even sooner due to their error.
      But MPs and Rich Folks won’t be admitted to such death factories, so that’s OK.

      1. Indeed, Heenan.

        I was also thinking of how the ‘shit rolls downhill’ principle will apply to these poor kids in the event mistakes are made by higher ranking staff, as they inevitably will do – also due to overwork, fatigue etc.

        It’s not just a baptism of fire, it’s an altogether terrifying prospect, and THE quintessential shitstorm for these youngsters to be hurled into, and I genuinely fear any instances of students being made scapegoats will only drive future prospectives from undertaking the vocation.

        But I’m resigned to seeing it happen, eventually.

        I don’t know what the perfect solution would be, but for starters I think ambulance chasing lawyers really ought to be legally proscribed from touting for negligence cases involving any student nurses unless there’s overwhelming evidence of gross negligence/malpractice.

      2. Have a look for what Dr Kaufman MD say, search for him and it will be shocking

      3. Another idiot who don’t give credit to people using a simple machine

    2. The emergancy powers has removed all liability from all NHS staff (and ppadibly for volunteers?) for as long as the govt want.

      1. Thanks, Flo. I didn’t know that!

        Puts me at ease on that particular score, anyway.

  7. London, like New York, is the centre of the Pandemic in GB & USA & deliberately orchestrated to be that way to ‘control the curve’. Staggering ‘hotspots’ means that the poorly funded NHS will be able to cope……..1st London; 2nd Birmingham & then………….? Stay indoors & ‘Protect the NHS?’ but Keep the metro & airports operating to ensure the circulation of Covid 19. The herd immunity programme is being activated bit by bit!

      1. Says the idiot who doesn’t know what he’s taking.
        Final score:
        Idiot Troll – 0, Science 100
        Go back to Gwyneth, idiot.
        1/10 for effort.

  8. I wish they’d said “applause” instead… the word “swab” still makes me shudder 🙂

  9. If you could get a bet on the number of patients treated at the new London Nightingale . I’d have a small wager on ZERO

    1. I am sure you are right and collect big, as Dr Kaftan et,al explain, there is no way you’re catch a virus, however, it can be injected, come on bill Gates who are you kidding
      Faith hope and love

  10. This is no big deal just another cheapo PR stunt. Expo’s are fitted out all over the world in less time. (for that is all it is) Services all inplace Simple demountable partitions nothing complex mostly repertion.
    A construction fit out managers dream. Simple logistics roads mostly quite or empty. Loads of skilled labour partition fitters/elecs/plumbs/coms workers doing nothing that would be glad of the work. So why bring in the army other than for PR purposes.
    All the lovies, journos et al wetting themselves although it’s some sort of miracle. I very much doubt that it is properly finished ready for handover.
    I doubt also there are proper emergency/fire evacuation procedures in place given all the O2 being used & immobile patients.
    All in all nothing more than a Stalinist PR stunt

  11. Them hospitals are not what you think, they’re there for termination, with ventilators equipment with 60 hertzs


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