COVID-19: Manchester Nightingale Takes Different Approach To London

Rachel Pugh

April 10, 2020

Manchester’s new temporary hospital, built to accommodate coronavirus patients as the epidemic peaks, is set to open next week, using a different working model to London’s Nightingale Hospital.

The Nightingale North West Hospital at the Manchester Central Conference Centre is ready for the arrival of up to 750 patients stepping down from intensive care, the first of whom are expected in the middle of next week. 

Patient Categories

It will take Level 1 Plus patients - defined according to the NHS’s Critical Care levels as ‘recently relocated from higher levels of care, whose needs can be met on an acute ward’ and who are not ventilated. This differs from London’s Nightingale Hospital which pro-vides critical care for 3000 patients on ventilators before they are able to recover in hospi-tals nearer home.

They will be nursed in the Central Hall of the conference centre (locally known as the GMEX) in 18 wards, each made up of 36 beds. Equipment and the necessary nursing skills will be available to provide additional support to ease breathing issues when need-ed and deliver drugs intravenously, but the main focus will be on rehabilitation to help patients get ready for discharge home. The soon-to-open Birmingham Nightingale is ex-pected to operate following a similar model. 

Chief Nurse for NHS England and NHS Improvement North West, Jackie Bird is the Sen-ior Responsible Officer for the facility. She said: “The Nightingale programme, really shows what the NHS and its partners can achieve when it pulls all the stops out. It’s been very heartening to see so many people and different organisations pulling together to create an entire hospital in the space of a fortnight to care for our population. It’s an in-credible feat.”

Region's Unique Needs

The Manchester facility is in contrast with the Nightingale at the Excel Centre, London, which has been built to provide around 3000 intensive care beds equipped with mechan-ical ventilators providing up to Level Three care for critically ill coronavirus patients in and around the area of London. All Nightingale hospitals have been developed in line with their region’s unique needs, based on detailed modelling.

The North West is depending on its own hospitals’ preparations to expand and fortify ex-isting intensive care facilities for the expected peak of pandemic cases in the coming week. The theory is that current ICU patients will improve sufficiently to move into the ‘stepped down’ beds at Manchester Central Conference Centre. 

Patients will be referred to the Nightingale North West hospital from hospitals in Lanca-shire, Cheshire, Merseyside and South Cumbria as well as Greater Manchester. The transfer of patients will be coordinated by the North West Ambulance Service, in conjunc-tion with a range of partners.

A new leadership team has been established, with Michael McCourt, chief executive of-ficer of Manchester and Trafford Local Care Organisations appointed its chief executive. The Medical Director is Tony Redmond, emeritus professor of international emergency medicine at the University of Manchester, founder of the charity UK-Med and a veteran of missions to many overseas disaster and battle zones.

UK-Med’s experience abroad is also providing guidance on infection control as Director of Infection Prevention and Control, David Anderson, is an expert in maintaining infec-tion control in temporary hospitals through his work with the charity, where he is a hu-manitarian advisor.

Possible plans are being developed to build ‘mini Nightingales’ in suitable buildings around the North West, should that become necessary.

'A New Hospital in Just a Few Weeks'

Built in 10 days with military help, the building work has been managed by Integrated Health Projects. It will be closely linked into community health and social care services.

Project Lead Ian Williamson, who is also chief accountable officer of Manchester Health and Care Commissioning, will be managing how the temporary facility works alongside existing NHS and social care in the North West.

He said: “NHS Nightingale Hospital North West will provide the highest possible standard of care for COVID-19 patients from across the whole region, and will free up capacity in our hospitals. The professionalism and commitment of the people who have come together from a wide range of organisations has made it possible to build a new hospital in just a few weeks and we are all proud to be involved in helping the NHS to save lives.”

The reason Manchester’s Nightingale has adopted a different approach from London is that the region’s coronavirus outbreak is peaking after the capital’s, where existing intensive care facilities have not been overwhelmed as predicted. So the North West is banking on the pattern being similar to London’s.

Decisions were also influenced by concerns expressed in intensive care circles about seriously ill patients being treated in a temporary facility, and that it might also end up in competition with existing teams for scarce ICU equipment.

Staff will be employed by the government-owned workforce provider NHS Professionals during their time at Nightingale North West. A recruitment campaign is seeking to attract social workers, ward clerks, and occupational therapists, alongside doctors, nurses, and healthcare support workers, without destabilising the rest of the NHS in the region.


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