Medical chiefs at a new Nightingale hospital in Yorkshire have said they will have succeeded if they never have to treat patients at the facility.
The sprawling 500-bed NHS Nightingale Hospital Yorkshire and the Humber was opened on the site of the Harrogate Convention Centre on Tuesday.
But bosses said that they hope the hospital is never used.
Speaking to the PA news agency in one of the eight halls that have been converted into temporary hospital wards, Steve Russell, chief executive, said: “Success for us, we’ve always said, is that we would never need to use the hospital.
“We know that, if it is needed, it can provide really safe and effective care to patients and their families, but success to us, in many respects, would be that we don’t ever need to treat patients here.”
He added: “I think it’s a really important insurance policy.
“When we started this two weeks ago, we thought that the critical care capacity was going to be exceeded by quite some way and so hundreds of colleagues have stepped up to build this fantastic facility in case it was needed.
“Thankfully, partly because of the preparation of the NHS more broadly, but also because of the huge efforts of the public in social distancing, patients who are needing to be in hospital in critical care facilities can all be treated in their local acute hospitals.
“And so, at the moment in time, Nightingale’s not needed but it’s a really important insurance policy just in case.”
A huge thank you to all #TeamHDFT colleagues (and everyone else) who have been involved in getting the new @NightingaleYH up & running. Officially opened this afternoon. It provides 500 more beds for patients with coronavirus from across Yorkshire & Humber, as required. pic.twitter.com/fQfFsJcHVc
— Harrogate NHS FT (@HarrogateNHSFT) April 21, 2020
Amanda Stanford, chief nurse, said: “I think we would hope that this facility is never actually needed because that would indicate that our critical care facilities are full and we’d need additional capacity and, what that means, in people terms, is that, actually, there are far more people in our communities who are sicker and needing critical care.
“So, yes, we’d hope this isn’t needed but, if it is ever needed, it’s here and ready to become operational.”
Ms Stanford said that the fact critical care facilities have been able to expand their capacity to cope with growing numbers is “a real positive step and shows resilience within our system”.
Yvette Oade, medical director, agreed with her colleagues but said she did not know how long the facility was going to remain as a hospital.
She said: “It’s an important back-up facility, it’s an insurance policy.
“We, at the moment, don’t need it, but we don’t know what’s going to happen further down the line when the lockdown is lifted or when winter approaches.”
Dr Oade said the facility had been built to provide care for patients who are the most severely ill with respiratory problems who may need ventilation.
But Mr Russell said the plan is for the most sick critical care patients to remain at their local hospitals.
The hospital in Harrogate took 10 days to complete and another 10 to stock with the necessary equipment.
Staff from across Yorkshire have been trained to work at the facility.