Britain “may still need” the Nightingale Hospitals, NHS England’s national medical director has insisted, after doctors suggested they were lying empty due to the Government’s over-reliance on worst case scenarios.

In a passionate defence of the programme, Prof Stephen Powis said it would have been “foolish” not to have built the seven field hospitals and insisted the Government was “100 per cent” to do so. 

It comes after doctors and Oxford University researchers suggested Nightingale hospitals had received fewer patients than anticipated due to “crystal ball gazing” from Imperial College.

Sources have suggested that worst-case-scenarios from the institution led the Government to ramp up capacity, while ignoring what was actually happening on wards.

Asked at the Government’s daily press briefing if the hospitals were built in error, Prof Powis said: “Absolutely 100 per cent not. If you wind the clock back a month or two, we were looking at an increase in the number of cases.

“We were watching images from around the world of health systems that were overwhelmed and we had not put in place, were about to put in place, a series of social distancing measures not absolutely knowing how the public would respond to that.

“And it would have been foolish to have not planned for extra capacity within the NHS. We did that in a number of ways including the Nightingales.”

Projections released on March 16th, by a team led by Professor Neil Ferguson, suggested that almost a third of infected over-80s would be hospitalised with coronavirus.

A group of senior ICU doctors, speaking to the Sunday Telegraph, said the Imperial models failed to take fully into account that ventilator use is rarely advised for elderly people because they are too frail to cope with such an invasive procedure.

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