Hospital beds in a makeshift ward

Costs of Bristol Nightingale hospital revealed

An NHS Nightingale hospital set up in Bristol cost £26m to set up and operate, running to provide 300 additional intensive care beds to NHS trusts in the area as they handled the Covid-19 pandemic.

Set up at the University of the West of England (UWE)’s Frenchay campus, the NHS Nightingale Hospital was established in just three weeks during April 2020 and was ultimately not needed to treated coronavirus patients.

It was used instead for the assessment and treatment of more than 7,000 non-Covid patients.

Costing £15.6m to set up and around £1m a month to keep operational, the hospital was set up last April to provide additional capacity, before being placed on standby in June 2020 which allowed NHS leaders to look at other uses for the facility.

Alongside capacity for 300 intensive care beds, the temporary hospital site also had space to treat up to 1,000 people in total.

Documents from the North Bristol NHS Trust showed that 7,284 patients from the Bristol Eye Hospital and Bristol Royal Hospital for Children patients.

The temporary NHS hospital was closed on March 31, 2021 and is now in the process of being decommissioned.

Speaking to local press, Marie-Noelle Orzel, who served as Chief Officer for Bristol’s NHS Nightingale hospital, described the experience of setting up the hospital: “What I think was very different about the Nightingale was the pace. With these projects you usually monitor progress using months and years - we didn’t have that luxury.”

“If you allow the experts to get on with it, they’ll get on with it quickly.

“That was very different in the Nightingale experience, we really didn’t have the bureaucratic chain, they trusted us as experts.

“We always thought of ourselves as an insurance policy for our wider NHS colleagues.”

With experience working in Iraq and in the Balkans, field hospitals were not a new experience to Ms Orzel, but she described setting up Bristol’s coronavirus field hospital was a unique experience.

Despite having been set up with the intention of providing additional intensive care capacity for Covid-19 patients, Bristol’s temporary hospital wasn’t needed to treat coronavirus cases. However, having the insurance policy of it there on standby, as additional capacity, right through until recently was a significant reassurance for those working across the regional Severn NHS network.

Across England, the seven Nightingale hospitals cost £220m to set up - according to figures confirmed last year by the NHS. With associated running and decommissioning costs, the final bill is expected to be much higher.

Other Nightingale hospitals were set up in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Harrogate, Exeter and Sunderland.

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