An NHS boss has said a new Nightingale Hospital being built in the North East of England will not need to open if people maintain social distancing rules.
Workers have transformed an empty unit close to the Nissan car plant into a 460-bed facility which could be ready to take patients at the end of the month.
But the Nightingale Hospital in Washington, Tyne and Wear, will only open to patients if hospitals in the North East are unable to cope with the influx of coronavirus patients.
Martin Wilson, chief operating officer for Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which is overseeing the project, said he does not think that will happen.
“I don’t think we will need to open,” he said.
“If people can all play their part in social distancing, if a vaccine comes along, my hope is that we don’t need to open.
“If we do, we will be ready.”
The brand new unit is owned by Sunderland Council and was due to be used by Newcastle and Sunderland Universities as an innovation centre, focusing on the future of manufacturing including electric cars.
It has good access to the rest of the region, being just off the A19 and not far from the A1.
If it does open, it will be staffed by employees of local trusts, as well as returning medics and volunteers.
The Newcastle trust has stressed that it has enough PPE, that its “number one priority” us protecting staff, and the new unit has designated “donning and doffing” areas.
The main hall where the beds will be located measures more than 9,000 square metres – a standard football pitch is 7,140 sq m.
Visitors will not be allowed to see patients at the unit, but the trust is looking to use tablets to keep families in touch, as well as setting up a 24-hour telephone number for relatives to call for updates.
Six other NHS Nightingale Hospitals have been announced so far – in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Bristol, Harrogate and Exeter.