Nightingale Hospitals converted to cancer testing centres to cope with backlog

2 July 2020, 10:19 | Updated: 2 July 2020, 10:45

Two Nightingale hospitals will be converted to cancer testing units
Two Nightingale hospitals will be converted to cancer testing units. Picture: PA Images
Naomi Bartram

By Naomi Bartram

Two NHS Nightingale hospitals will be converted to cancer testing centres in the coming weeks.

The government has announced that two NHS Nightingale hospitals, that were set up to deal with coronavirus, will now be converted to cancer testing centres.

NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens revealed that the 200-bed Exeter Nightingale site will start screening patients from Monday, to help cope with the growing number of people waiting for tests.

The 500-bed Nightingale Hospital at Harrogate Convention Centre began offering CT scans on June 4.

While they were originally built for COVID-19 patients incase intensive care wards became overwhelmed, both hospitals will be open seven days a week, from 8am to 8pm for CT scans.

The Excel Nightingale Hospital in London will not be converted
The Excel Nightingale Hospital in London will not be converted. Picture: PA Images

However, they will remain on standby to treat coronavirus patients if there is a local surge of the disease.

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Simon Stevens said: "This is an opportunity and a necessity quite frankly to do something quite different in diagnostics.

"Four-fifths of the patients who are on a waiting list are typically waiting for a test or an outpatient appointment, rather than waiting to be admitted to hospital for an operation.

"And given the pressures on hospitals and diagnostic teams over the March, April, May period, there has been a big reduction in the flow of patients through those diagnostic services.

He added: "We've got to do something different, we've got to expand diagnostic capacity, we've also got to do it in new ways."

Health Secretary Matt Hancock also said: "We will be converting Nightingale hospitals into cancer testing centres, starting with NHS Nightingale Hospital Exeter on Monday.

"This is an opportunity and a necessity quite frankly to do something quite different in diagnostics.

"Our NHS is open so if you have any symptoms or concerns, please come forward."

NHS England officials said there are no plans to convert other Nightingales, including the 4,000-bed London Excel Centre, which remains on standby in case of a second wave.

This comes amid fears there could be up to 2.5million cancer patients who have missed out on vital tests and treatment this year because of the coronavirus crisis.

Patients waiting more than six weeks for a test increased from 30,000 to 469,000 as routine NHS care was put on hold during the peak of the outbreak.

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