Only one ward at the NHS Nightingale hospital’s London location was ever used, the Telegraph can reveal, after the service shuttered the doors of the new hospitals to patients just weeks after opening.
A volunteer who worked in the London hospital has said just one of the dozen wards at the ExCel Centre was ever put to use, after a lack of demand from NHS Trusts across the capital.
“Each ward had capacity for about 42 patients and at no point did they fill up more than one ward,” said the volunteer, who worked at the hospital as a clinical care worker through St John Ambulance and who asked to remain anonymous. “On average there were about 30 patients in the hospital at a time.”
London’s Nightingale hospital opened on April 3, after nine days of construction, with 500 beds, and the potential to accommodate up to 4,000 patients, if the city’s hospitals became overwhelmed.
“There were other wards that were prepped and ready, but there was only one that was ever open,” said the volunteer. “They had prepared to deal with lots and lots of patients, but luckily the staff weren’t all needed.”
Earlier reports implied NHS Nightingale hospitals had been underused because of a shortage of doctors and nurses. But the volunteer said it was in fact largely vacant because London’s hospitals had coped with the peak of coronavirus.
“At times I was asked to leave half way through a shift, because they had too many staff,” said the volunteer. “There were lots of us but not enough patients.”
He added that the patients ranged between their late 40s into their 70s and were all ventilated when they arrived at the hospital.
The final patient was discharged from the Nightingale on May 6, as the hospital prepared to close its doors, in a sign that the country was coming through the peak of virus and that admissions would now ease.
NHS England confirmed that only one ward was ever put to use, but stayed tight-lipped on the total number of patients that had been treated at its Nightingale locations.
The hospital treated just 51 patients in its first three weeks of operation, according to a previous report by the BBC.
A spokesman for NHS England previously said it would be a “mark of success” if the hospitals weren’t used to their full capacity.
Staff are expected to be redeployed to established hospitals, but some equipment will remain in place at the Nightingale sites.
The volunteer said their work at the hospital would continue into this week as St John Ambulance volunteers helped to test staff members for Covid-19, and provided them with first aid.