Ben Bradshaw, Labour MP for Exeter tweeted: “Very good news that the Exeter Nightingale hospital is finally opening for patients tomorrow to take pressure off the RD&E hospitals and other local NHS services to cope with unprecedented Covid-19 UK pressures.”
The hospital, which has a 116-bed capacity, will take on patients transferred from the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust as it is “very busy”.
A spokesperson for the Nightingale Hospital Exeter said on Wednesday: “The Nightingale Exeter will accept patients tomorrow who will be transferred from the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust (RD&E), which is very busy.
“We would ask that the public continue to observe the Government’s advice on observing the lockdown and social distancing so that we can keep patients safe.”
Construction work on the Nightingale site in Exeter started in May and was finished in July. It was used for diagnostic tests throughout the summer, including around 200 CT scans and 100 ultrasounds.
He added he had raised the issue with Health Secretary Matt Hancock two weeks ago, referring to 10 November when Mr Bradshaw told him his local NHS wanted to use the hospital, but did not then have enough staff to do so.
In the Commons, he asked Mr Hancock: “What exactly is the purpose of the Nightingale hospitals when there are not the doctors and nurses to staff them?”
Mr Hancock replied there had been an increase of more than 13,000 nurses in the past year and former members of NHS staff had returned to help.
“The Nightingale hospitals are incredibly important as additional surge capacity, but part of that surge involved the staff in the NHS having themselves each to look after a higher proportion of patients,” said the Health Secretary.
“That surge is not something we want to put in place unless we have to, so having the Nightingales there is important.”
Asked by constituents on Twitter if the staffing issue had been resolved, Mr Bradshaw replied: “The statement says it ‘will be staffed by health and care staff from across Devon. Work has been undertaken to ensure sufficient numbers of named staff can be released to safely open the Nightingale’.
“In their statement the local NHS has said they have managed to pull staff in from areas where it is not as busy.”
According to official figures from the government, the number of coronavirus patients in hospital in the south-west of England has been rising steadily over previous weeks.
Data shows that 437 patients were reported as being in hospital on 1 November, a huge jump from just 34 patients on 1 October.
On 24 November, 968 confirmed coronavirus patients were reported as being in hospital, and 70 patients were reported on the same day as being on mechanical ventilation beds.