NHS England will be setting up Nightingale surge hubs to cope with high numbers of Covid hospitalisations – but people have spotted a particular problem with this new strategy.
These “surge hubs” will be set up in eight hospitals across England in preparation for the expected rise in Omicron admissions in the coming months.
Each temporary unit will house around 100 patients and construction is set to begin this week.
Additional sites for 4,000 more beds may also be on the cards as hospitalisations in England have risen above 10,000 for the first time since March this year.
NHS medical director Professor Stephen Powis said the new hubs are part of the health service’s response to Omicron and that the UK is now on a “war footing”, while health secretary Sajid Javid said the hubs might not need to be used but it’s good to prepare.
The hubs will be placed at the Royal Preston hospital in Lancashire, in St James’ University Hospital in Leeds, in Stevenage’s Lister Hospital, Tooting’s St George’s Hospital, North Bristol Hospital, Solihull Hospital, William Harvey Hospital in Ashford, and University Hospitals Leicester.
But there are two clear flaws with this new strategy.
Firstly, many have noticed that introducing Nightingale surge hubs to cope with increasing infections and hospital admissions seems at odds at the government’s refusal to introduce new restrictions before Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
Restrictions are likely to be introduced in January when the government has access to more data about how severe Omicron symptoms can be, but the festive season is expected to have accelerated the variant’s transmission across the country.
So bafflingly shit that the message is both “party at new year” and “ready the nightingale surge hubs” https://t.co/DnTyfYLjxE
— James Felton (@JimMFelton) December 30, 2021
The other major pressing is the shortage of employees to look after Covid patients.
NHS staff absences in London increased by 150% week-on-week in the seven days leading up to December 19, according to the health service’s data.
Critics have asked why the government is focusing on providing hospital beds rather than prioritising the NHS staff shortages.
Just so I have this clear in my own mind...the Govt has relentlessly pushed the narrative of no need for more restrictions and yet the NHS is building makeshift field hospitals in its car parks 🤷♂️ https://t.co/bBzxNCkU7J
— Shaun Lintern (@ShaunLintern) December 30, 2021
— Prof Alison Leary 💙#ProtectNurse (@alisonleary1) December 30, 2021
Pat Cullen, the Royal College of Nursing general secretary, also asked how these units would work with so many members of staff self-isolating.
She told Sky News this week: “You can set up all the hubs that you wish to set up but if you don’t have the nursing staff to actually care for the patients that are going to be placed in those hubs, that places more challenges on the nursing workforce.”
The NHS was already being squeezed after the health secretary made Covid vaccinations mandatory for all staff.
A shortage of rapid lateral flow tests is causing further concern as it means people will be unable to test themselves before socialising.
However, the government has promised to make eight million Covid tests available before Friday, December 31, which could help stop some transmission on New Year’s Eve.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.