Bristol Nightingale hospital for coronavirus patients to open at UWE Frenchay campus later this month

April 03 2020
Bristol Nightingale hospital for coronavirus patients to open at UWE Frenchay campus later this month

A UNIVERSITY of the West of England building is being converted into a 300-bed hospital for coronavirus patients.

UWE Bristol has confirmed that work is underway at the Exhibition and Conference Centre (ECC) on its Frenchay campus to provide a temporary hospital for the NHS to use if needed during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Announcing details today, UWE said the hospital was expected to be “fully operational and treating patients from April”.

A leading medic involved in the planning says the hospital is something “hopefully we’ll never need” but will provide spare capacity. Similar temporary facilities, known as Nightingale hospitals, are being set up in London, Manchester and Birmingham.

UWE says accommodation at Frenchay campus that is not currently being used by students will also be made available for NHS staff working at the temporary hospital.

The university expects the hospital to be used over the summer, with the site returned to the university ready for the next academic year in the autumn.

NHS staff and patients will be separated from remaining UWE Bristol staff and students on the site in what the university describes as “clearly defined separate zones across the campus” for health and safety reasons.

UWE Vice-Chancellor Professor Steve West said: “I’m pleased we are able to offer our facilities to help the NHS and support the local community and wider region at this exceptionally challenging time.

These temporary arrangements on our Frenchay campus have the potential to save many lives and play a vitally important role in limiting the impact of coronavirus in the South West.

As a university community we have already demonstrated how we can support the NHS and front-line services, and there is more we will be doing in future to contribute to the national effort.”

North Bristol NHS Trust will formally host the hospital, although it will be run by nurses, doctors, managers and other staff from different NHS organisations across the region.

Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group Chief Executive, Julia Ross, who has been in charge of setting up the hospital, said: “Having hugely ramped up beds, facilities and services, we are confident that all our local hospitals are ready to deal with the expected increase in patients with coronavirus over the coming weeks.

However, based on other countries’ experience of the pandemic, it’s only right that we have even more surge capacity in place to protect our local population should it be needed.”

North Bristol NHS Trust Deputy Medical Director Tim Whittlestone, who has been leading on clinical input to the planning, said: “If everyone across the West keeps observing the social isolation rules to stop the virus spreading, hopefully we’ll never need this hospital.

But this is an extraordinary time, so it’s only right we have more capacity in place. I’m extremely grateful to our wonderful NHS staff for rising to the current challenge, but they cannot do this alone. They need everyone to follow the expert advice to stay home and save lives.”