A vast new temporary field hospital at Birmingham’s NEC will be opening on Friday after a “phenomenal” effort which saw it go from planning to completion in two weeks.
The Birmingham Nightingale Hospital on the outskirts of the city will be fully operational in just two days, project leaders said.
It comes as regional health chiefs moved to “reassure” the public there was still plenty of ventilator and critical care bed capacity in the Midlands, amid the Covid-19 outbreak.
The facility is one of a network of NHS Nightingale Hospitals being built up and down the country, the first of which has already opened at London’s ExCel centre.
It will initially have 496 beds divided into four wards – with potential to be immediately increased to 800 if needed.
The hospital can also be massively scaled up in phases if infection rates worsen across the region, with a second phase of up to 2,000 beds and a worst-case third phase, up to 4,000 beds.
The Birmingham site will be taking patients who have Covid-19 and are recovering, those for whom it is “not appropriate” to ventilate because of age or illness, and palliative patients “who it is clear cannot get through this illness”, its chief executive said.
Staff will be drawn from Midlands hospitals, including from those who have returned to work after recently retiring.
It will take mainly adult patients from 14 trusts across the Midlands, including Birmingham, the Black Country, Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, as well as Derby and Burton-upon-Trent.
Dr David Rosser is chief executive of Birmingham’s biggest hospital trust, University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust (UHB), and the new NEC-based Nightingale