A temporary hospital that could take in hundreds of people seriously ill with coronavirus is being created in the conference centre at the University of the West of England in Bristol, Bristol Live understands.
Work to convert the 4,000m square space inside into an emergency care hospital, for patients on ventilators needing hospital treatment, has been under way since last week, we can reveal.
Vehicles belonging to local tradespeople, including electrical, engineering and maintenance firms, were seen parked outside the building this afternoon (Monday, March 30).
All the health authorities approached by Bristol Live, including University Hospitals Bristol England, Public Health England, the South Gloucestershire and North Bristol Health Trust, declined to comment on the work.
It is understood the temporary hospital will be used if, or when, the number of NHS patients who need hospital treatment, which is still increasing in the city, becomes too much for the city’s two hospitals – Southmead and the BRI.
Unconfirmed reports suggest the UWE Conference Centre could also be a regional hub for the wider West of England or south west, and not just for Bristol.
A spokesperson for NHS England told Bristol Live that when they were ready to make an announcement, it would be done through a formal press release.
There is already one temporary hospital – at London’s ExCeL centre in the Docklands area of the capital, that is being fitted out now, and is due to open at the end of this week, with a capacity of up to 5,000 beds.
Over the weekend, it was reported that two regional temporary coronavirus hospitals would be set up in Birmingham first, with a capacity for another 5,000 beds, which would open in mid-April, and another facility at Manchester Central, which could accommodate 1,000 beds.
The conference centre at UWE is two-fifths the floor space of the Manchester facility, so could in theory accommodate up to 400 beds.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Bristol has risen rapidly today, Monday. In Bristol, the number of cases rose from 78 to 92 – the increase of 14 is the biggest daily rise so far.
Health officials tend to be only testing patients for suspected coronavirus who are being admitted to hospital, so almost all the confirmed cases represents the current burden on the NHS in the West of England.
There have been a total of 225 confirmed cases in the West of England so far – it is unknown how many of those 225 patients are currently in one of Bristol’s two hospitals, or at the RUH in Bath.
Announcing the new hospitals in Manchester and Cardiff at the weekend, the head of the NHS in England, Sir Simon Stevens pledged that there would be more to follow.
“The NHS is making an extraordinary effort to ensure there is care for the patients who need looking after,” he said.
“As of today across England, we have reconfigured hospital services so that 33,000 hospital beds are available to treat further coronavirus patients.
“It is also why we are taking the extraordinary action to build new hospitals in very short order, starting with the NHS Nightingale hospital in east London.”
He said because this was a problem not confined to London, but across the whole country, “I have given the go-ahead to the building of two further NHS Nightingale hospitals… with further such hospitals to follow,” he added.