Portsmouth sites considered for new Nightingale-style hospital for coronavirus patients

MILITARY planners have been looking at whether Portsmouth could host a new Nightingale-style field hospital to care for critically-ill coronavirus patients, The News can reveal.

Friday, 3rd April 2020, 6:00 am
Updated Friday, 3rd April 2020, 5:50 pm

Army chiefs have been assessing multiple sites across the area as part of a county-wide strategy to prepare for a surge in those infected by the Covid-19 disease, which has killed 56 in Portsmouth and 2,921 across the UK.

No decisions have been finalised about where such a facility would go – or if one would ultimately even end up in the Portsmouth area.

However, The News understands military personnel have already carried out assessments of potential sites, which have since been scrubbed from the list.

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An aerial view of Portsmouth with the Mountbatten Centre, which had been looked at by military planners searching for sites to base a new field hospital at. Picture: Portsmouth City Council

Among the areas looked at by army officials included Stamshaw’s Mountbatten leisure centre and the Langstone Technology Park, near Havant.

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Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, leader of Portsmouth City Council, said: 'The army did look at the Mountbatten Centre as a potential site but decided it wasn't appropriate.’

His deputy, Councillor Steve Pitt, said discussions were still in the planning stages and that the process was a ‘changeable beast’.

Military personnel at the ExCel centre in London which is being made into a temporary hospital - the NHS Nightingale hospital, comprising of two wards, each of 2,000 people, to help tackle coronavirus. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

He said: ‘The city council is working with partners, including the military who are leading this planning nationally.

‘Conversations have been ongoing for the two weeks and they’re still in the planning stage.

‘This is not something that is being orchestrated at a Portsmouth level; we are participating in the exploratory work for a county-wide strategy.

‘So a number of sites are being looked at, including here in Portsmouth, and we’re not aware any final decision has yet been reached.’

Councillor Donna Jones, a former leader of the city council, said plans for a 300-bed ‘community hospital’ in Hilsea were among those being considered, alongside proposals to open an additional mortuary to accommodate the dead.

‘As we have seen with the ExCel Centre and the opening of the new Nightingale hospital in London, we are going to have a new field hospital built in Hampshire,’ Cllr Jones said.

‘It should be open by the middle of April. That will have high-dependency beds, including extra ventilators, so that if our hospitals in Hampshire, Basingstoke, Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight reach capacity, there will be spare beds there.’

Cllr Pitt insisted the 300-bed community hospital plan was ‘part and parcel’ of the army field hospital search and said it wasn’t yet a guarantee.

He added: ‘We would expect things to be firmed up and moved to a delivery stage within the next week or so.

‘Any consideration to a provision in Portsmouth will be as part of an overall county-wide strategy.’

Health chiefs have said the county was ready to tackle an increase in demand.

The new Nightingale Hospital, at London’s ExCel conference centre, is set to open this week.

Taking just nine days to build, the temporary facility has 500 beds already in place and there is space for another 3,500.

It was the first of a series of field hospitals being constructed to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, with others set to be built in Birmingham, Manchester, Harrogate, Glasgow, Cardiff and Llanelli in Wales and at a former prison near Belfast in Northern Ireland.

Speaking of Hampshire's plans, an NHS spokesman said: ‘We’re not announcing any more sites at the moment and any announcements will be made in due course.’

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