Harrogate’s NHS Nightingale hospital to remain open until March as contract extended for another seven months with review
Harrogate's NHS Nightingale hospital will remain open until at least March next year, it has been announced.
However, there will be a review on 1 October to assess if there is an ongoing need for the 500-bed field hospital at the town's convention centre.
Harrogate Borough Council - which owns the venue - has been locked in talks with the NHS for months over how much longer the site will be needed, and it has today announced it will remain open to safeguard against another spike in coronavirus cases this winter.
A contract for the centre's use has twice been extended and the latest agreement marks the council's longest commitment to the NHS to date.
Centre director Paula Lorimer said: "The convention centre will continue in its role as a Nightingale hospital until 31 March but this will be reviewed on 1 October to assess if there is an ongoing need for the hospital.
“We are very proud to support the NHS and the response to Covid-19 but we continue to lobby government at every level for a post-Nightingale recovery plan for the venue, and the Harrogate district.”
In July, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced £3bn to maintain the seven Nightingale hospitals until the end of March, but the future of Harrogate's remained unclear as talks continued.
Nightingale hospitals have been built at conference venues elsewhere in London, Birmingham and Manchester.
They have begun planning for events to partially return this autumn, while remaining on standby as hospitals.
Harrogate Convention Centre, however, says it can't restart events or plan ahead while it's in use as a Nightingale because of its size.
Ms Lorimer said: “The events industry remains in lockdown until at least 1 October and, if there is a further rise in infections, it is unlikely we will be able to reopen anyway.
“I look forward to welcoming back our customers from the 1 April 2021 at the latest when Harrogate Convention Centre and the Royal Hall will reopen."
The temporary hospital in Harrogate has not treated a single coronavirus patient since opening at the peak of the outbreak in April.
It was used for the first time last month when it opened outpatient radiology appointments for non-coronavirus patients.
The council faces a £9m deficit as a result of the pandemic, most of which is lost income from the convention centre.
The NHS is not paying any rent to the convention centre or the council, but it is hoped the government will contribute towards a potential £47m renovation of the venue.
By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter