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Nightingale hospitals to be converted into cancer testing centres

The facility in Exeter will be the first to operate as a testing centre.

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Health Secretary Matt Hancock (Andrew Parsons/10 Downing Street/Crown Copyright)

Health Secretary Matt Hancock (Andrew Parsons/10 Downing Street/Crown Copyright)

Health Secretary Matt Hancock (Andrew Parsons/10 Downing Street/Crown Copyright)

A newly-built Nightingale Hospital is to be converted into a cancer testing centre, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has confirmed.

The site, based at a former Homebase store in Exeter, will open 12 hours per day seven days per week and offer non-Covid CT scanning.

Seven Nightingale Hospitals were built in locations in England including London, Manchester and Bristol to create surge capacity as a response to the coronavirus pandemic.

On Tuesday, Mr Hancock tweeted: “We will be converting Nightingale hospitals into cancer testing centres, starting with NHS Nightingale Hospital Exeter on Monday.

“Our NHS is open so if you have any symptoms or concerns, please come forward.”

His tweets followed comments by Sir Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England, to the Health and Social Care Committee on Tuesday.

Sir Simon said diagnostic capacity would have to be expanded “in new ways” to deal with an increase in referrals.

He told the committee that the first facility to be converted would be Exeter Nightingale Hospital, which would be re-purposed for non-Covid CT scanning from Monday.

“It’s worth remembering that four-fifths of the patients who are on a waiting list are typically waiting for a test or an outpatient appointment, rather than waiting to be admitted to hospital for an operation,” Sir Simon said.

“And given the pressures on hospitals and diagnostic teams over the March, April, May period, there has been a big reduction in the flow of patients through those diagnostic services.

“Therefore, we’ve got to do something different, we’ve got to expand diagnostic capacity, we’ve also got to do it in new ways.”

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Sir Simon Stevens (Aaron Chown/PA)

Sir Simon Stevens (Aaron Chown/PA)

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Sir Simon Stevens (Aaron Chown/PA)

On May 18, Downing Street confirmed that the Manchester Nightingale hospital was the only one of the temporary sites in England treating patients.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said then that the London and Birmingham hospitals were “on standby” and not accepting new patients.

Bristol’s facility, at the University of the West of England, will now formally move into standby mode having not treated a single patient.

On Tuesday, it was confirmed that staff and resources from Bristol’s Nightingale would be returned to other services and hospitals in the area.

Marie-Noelle Orzel, chief officer of the hospital, said: “We have always said that we hope our hospital is never needed.

“To date, thanks to the hard work of NHS colleagues in the region and large numbers of people following the expert advice and guidance, there has been no need to use our hospital.

“Moving our hospital into a standby mode means that we remain ready and waiting for when we are needed but are able to return staff and resources to other services and hospitals for the time being.”

Discussions are now taking place across the Severn region as to how facilities can best be used during the standby period, the hospital said.

PA