Questions raised over wisdom of “Nightingale” hospitals

In the late 18th century Russian prince Grigori Potemkin is alleged in popular myth to have built impressive fake villages along the route to be travelled by Empress Catherine the Great, to give the illusion of prosperity.

In the early 21st century, NHS England has taken a leaf out of Potemkin’s book, by commandeering a vast exhibition and conference centre, and with logistical help from the army created the appearance of a huge “new hospital” more than four times the size of most normal general hospitals.

It has made some good headlines, and has actually been compared with the massive Chinese effort in Wuhan, which involved clearing land and building a vast prefabricated hospital from scratch in just ten days: but reconfiguring a large pre-existing building comprised mostly of open space is not really in the same league, and questions are now being asked about how wise it was to do this, and whether the building has proved to be an asset or a liability.

Not least because just as the villages were hollow facades, the hospital turns out to be lacking two key ingredients for success – staff, and patients.

Indeed while it appears that the hospital has been speedily equipped with 500 brand new beds and even hard-to-find ventilator machines, it has a desperate shortage of staff with the intensive care expertise to use the ventilators, and patients to use them on. Just one 42-bed ward is actually being used.

Full story in The Lowdown, 27 April 2020