University of Sunderland CESAM, Plot 5, International Drive, Sunderland.
The inside of the Centre for Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing (CeSAM), one of the new NHS Nightingale hospital sites

NHS England confirmed on the 10th April that new field hospitals will be opened in Exeter and Sunderland to provide extra beds for patients with COVID-19 symptoms if they are needed in the weeks ahead.

The announcement comes as the UK continues to fight the outbreak of coronavirus which has resulted in a lockdown of the country for over three weeks.

NHS Nightingale facilities are critical care field hospitals created within large sites which are designed to increase the NHS’ capacity to care for individuals with the virus.

So far, three Nightingale hospitals have been established in London, Birmingham and Manchester and further hospitals are being developed in Bristol and Harrogate.

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With the Exeter and Sunderland sites, it will bring the total of NHS Nightingale hospitals to seven with just a matter of weeks.

NHS Chief Executive, Sir Simon Stevens, said: “These hospitals will provide backup and support for NHS hospitals across the South West and the North East, should it be needed.

“Our local health service staff have rightly recommended we go ahead with these additional facilities. But our ambition as a country has to be to continue to stay at home to cut infections and save lives – so that the need to actually use these Nightingale hospitals is as limited as possible.”

The Exeter and Sunderland sites are expected to be operational towards the end of April or early May and will add up to 700 beds to be used by local services if needed.

Various members of the trade have also ramped up production and responded quickly to the need for additional equipment vital for caring for those with coronavirus, including Herida Healthcare working around the clock to supply mattresses and Drive DeVilbiss launching a new bed specially designed for field hospitals.

NHS Nightingale North East will have up to 450 beds initially, confirmed the Health Service, whilst NHS Nightingale Exeter will add around 200.

According to the NHS, the seven confirmed NHS Nightingale hospitals will be integrated with and support existing NHS Hospitals in areas across the length and breadth of England.

In common with the five other Nightingale sites, converting the facilities – at the University of Sunderland’s Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing in Washington, and the Westpoint Centre in Exeter – will be a joint project between local NHS organisations, the armed forces and contractors.

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