Harrogate Convention Centre boss says reopening date 'impossible' to set as Nightingale talks continue

The director of Harrogate Convention Centre has said it is "impossible" for the venue to set a reopening date while it remains on standby as a Nightingale Hospital.

Friday, 19th June 2020, 2:33 pm
Updated Friday, 19th June 2020, 2:38 pm

Paula Lorimer told the Local Democracy Reporting Service discussions are ongoing with NHS bosses over when the council-owned venue could be handed back over to business.

The centre - which normally hosts lifestyle shows, expos and conferences - was transformed into a 500-bed hospital in April and has not treated a single coronavirus patient.

Harrogate Borough Council extended a contract with the NHS for its use until 31 July - and the council is now awaiting confirmation for how much longer it will be needed.

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Paula Lorimer, director of Harrogate Convention Centre.

Ms Lorimer said while a number of cancelled events were provisionally rescheduled for September, there is no guarantee that they will go ahead.

"The NHS contract to use the convention centre expires at the end of July", she said.

"Discussions are ongoing, but it has not yet made a decision about the future of its Nightingale Hospitals across the country.

"We are also waiting for government to publish the guidance which could permit us to reopen later this year.

"As a result, it is impossible to set a firm date at this stage".

The hospital is one of seven in the UK that either remain on standby or are being stood down.

NHS England does not pay any rent to the convention centre or the council.

Harrogate Borough Council is facing a £15million deficit this year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic - a significant proportion of that was lost revenue from the convention centre.

The centre says it contributes £60million to the local economy annually and it is now drawing up plans to reopen when government guidance allows.

Ms Lorimer said: "We are making preparations, based on what we expect will be required, including measures to make sure social distancing rules are maintained, hand sanitising stations, temperature checks and PPE.

"It goes without saying that we want to welcome back clients as soon as we are permitted to do so".

The hospital - which took 18 days to construct - began offering outpatient appointments for patients with radiology referrals from 4 June and it is continuing to offer appointments seven days a week.

By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter

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