This is what Harrogate's NHS Nightingale Hospital could be used for next

The 500-bed temporary NHS Nightingale Hospital and Yorkshire and the Humber could be used to ease pressure on beds or services at other hospitals, health scrutiny councillors heard.

Monday, 5th October 2020, 5:32 pm
Updated Monday, 5th October 2020, 5:36 pm

North Yorkshire County councillor Coun Jim Clark (Con, Harrogate Harlow) raised the possibility at the West Yorkshire Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting hosted virtually by Calderdale Council this week.

It also covers some Harrogate and North Yorkshire matters, and Coun Clark said he was pleased an assurance had been given that the Nightingale Hospital would be kept on until at least March 31, 2021, although there were some calls to return it back to a conference centre.

“What are the plans? This is a tremendous facility that’s lying empty. It seems to me this facility could be used for any sort of work that wasn’t a particularly intensive or acute, for example flu vaccinations,” he said.

The temporary hospital could play a vital role to ease pressure on the NHS during the second wave of coronavirus.

West Yorkshire and Harrogate Health and Care Partnership Board Director Ian Holmes, who was presenting an update on the coronavirus epidemic and future planning for the area, said not having to use it during the first phase of COVID-19 infections was a success.

“In the crisis it has been used for things other than COVID, for example some diagnostics, to deal with backlog.

“It is possible to be used in different ways and that should not be discounted,” he said.

Coun Clark said to have it not being used when there was a shortage of hospital beds in North Yorkshire seemed a great pity.

“It would be helpful if we could use it for less important things and save the use of other hospitals,” he said.

Calderdale councillor Coun Colin Hutchinson (Lab, Skircoat) had said severe shortage of space was an issue in time of coronavirus and asked if private hospitals could help by offering space for diagnostics and also queried whether staff would be called in from the Nightingale Hospital.

Earlier in the debate Mr Holmes said it was hoped the Nightingale Hospital would not be needed through the winter months.

He outlined the phased recovery stages for health services from COVID and spoke about challenges in the weeks and months ahead.

“It is at its most complex where we are trying to manage services while dealing with an increased number of outbreaks and preparing for winter.

“It is a complex period and quite challenging period managing those competing demands on services.

“We hope the Nightingale facility won’t be needed – but we are planning for the worst and hoping for the best,” he said.

The partnership was in a reasonably could position for personal protective equipment (PPE) with a source of supply in place into 2021 and testing capacity for COVID-19 is increasing, with around 3,500 tests a day able to be provided at centres across the region and plans for the capability to be increased, he said, including lab capacity.

The issue of flu was a concern and Bradford councillor Coun Vanda Greenwood (Lab, Windhill and Wrose) was concerned about shortages of flu vaccine jabs available.

Mr Holmes said demand on supplies had been high resulting in pressure on supply but the board was addressing these issues.

Earlier he had said the partnership was concerned about the impact of flu if there was a second spike in COVID-19 cases coinciding with flu – Chief Executive of Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Trust, Owen Williams, was working with West Yorkshire Flu Forum to support local arrangements.

By John Greenwood, Local Democracy Reporter