UK COVID-19 Daily: 4000 Capacity London Field Hospital Announced

Tim Locke

March 24, 2020

Editor's note: This article may not reflect the latest COVID-19 information. Find the latest news, expert opinion, and guidance in Medscape UK's COVID-19 Resource Centre

These are the UK coronavirus stories you need to know about today.

Field Hospital

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told a Downing Street online news conference a COVID-19 field hospital is being set up in London. "We will next week, open a new hospital, a temporary hospital, the NHS Nightingale hospital at the ExCel Centre in London. 

"The NHS Nightingale hospital will comprise two wards, each of 2000 people. 

"With the help of the military, and with NHS clinicians, we will make sure that we have the capacity that we need so that everyone can get the support they need."

Stephen Powis, national medical director of NHS England, described setting up the hospital as an "extraordinary feat".

He added: "From a standing start a day or 2 ago, a hospital will be built that will be able to take its first patient at the start of next week."

Today the deaths were announced of 87 more people in the UK with COVID-19, bringing the total to 422.

Dr Jenny Harries, deputy chief medical officer for England, was asked if earlier lockdown measures could have prevented more deaths at this stage. She said that wasn't clear from the experience of other countries: "Italy has had a lockdown for some time and, very sadly, the death rate there is staggeringly high."

Volunteer Force

Mr Hancock also announced an NHS volunteer service. "We're seeking a quarter of a million volunteers, people in good health, to help the NHS, for shopping and delivery of medicines and to support those who are shielded to protect their own health. 

"The NHS volunteer responders, is a new scheme set up so that people can come and help, and to make sure that the NHS, and the local services that are needed, get all the support that they can."

PPE and Testing

Yesterday, we reported on the results of our Medscape UK PPE poll which found 7 in 10 doctors lacked supplies.

This afternoon, Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth tackled Matt Hancock in the Commons on continuing reports of staff not having adequate PPE: "We've still got hospital chief executives expressing concern that they don't have access to FFP3 masks, are not getting the visors and the sanitisers that they need on time, and indeed when they do get the masks they are different masks from the previous set that they had got, so they have to retrain the staff. I really urge the government to move heaven and earth now to get the PPE to the frontline that our staff need."

Mr Hancock responded: "We are moving heaven and earth, as he asks, and the military involvement is ramping up the delivery of that equipment."

He continued: "We've put in place the hotline so that if you need PPE and you're not getting it call the hotline so that we know where the difficulties are in terms of getting it to the frontline, so we can respond to those calls, and so we can get it to you."

The Secretary of State was also asked about why COVID-19 testing is not widely available to NHS staff. "We are ramping up testing as fast as we can, including buying millions of tests, and my team are currently buying these tests which we'll  make available as quickly as possible," he said.

Later he said the NHS had bought 3.5m antibody tests.

Dr Harries told the Downing Street briefing: "This goes back to the point about nurses, medics, our care staff, knowing when they do or do not have the illness so that they can actually take their families or themselves out of isolation safely, and be on the front line. We're not there at the moment but we have that very much coming through and a lot of activity on it and I think that's really important."

Early Medical Abortion Announcement Error

Yesterday we reported how the NHS in England had brought in measures to ensure continued access to early medical abortion services. 

Temporary approval, a Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) announcement said, had been given for the home as a class of place where both abortion pills can be taken for early medical abortion.

However, the Department of Health told the Independent that no changes have been made: "This was published in error. There will be no changes to abortion regulations." 

The DHSC page we linked to now says: "The page you're looking for is no longer available."

This afternoon, Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the Commons: "We have no proposals to change any abortion rules as part of the COVID-19 response." 

Pharmacists Abused

The General Pharmaceutical Council said some members have experienced abuse or violence in community pharmacies.

Chief Executive Duncan Rudkin said in a statement: "We are also hearing increasing numbers of reports that pharmacy staff are experiencing abuse, disorder, and even violence at the hands of some of the members of the public they are trying to help.  Abuse of pharmacy staff is never acceptable. Pharmacy is a key part of the national response and its workforce are entitled to be treated with the same respect as other key healthcare professionals. 

"This is an especially challenging time for the pharmacy profession and we condemn any abuse."

Blood Donors

NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) is urging donors to keep appointments despite coronavirus restrictions.

NHSBT said: "There are no confirmed cases of any form of coronavirus being passed on through the donation of substances of human origin such as blood, organs, tissues, and stem cells." 

However, it does list restrictions due to recent travel abroad.

UK Universities Contributing to the Fight Against COVID-19

Several universities in the UK have directed their research efforts to help fight the spread of COVID-19, Univadis from Medscape reported. 

Projects include genome sequencing, rapid testing, and vaccine development.

Olympics Postponement Welcomed

UK sporting bodies welcomed the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics.

British Olympic Association Chief Executive Andy Anson said: "It would have been unthinkable for us to continue to prepare for an Olympic Games at a time the nation and the world no less is enduring great hardship. A postponement is the right decision."

British Paralympic Association CEO Mike Sharrock added: "Stemming this global public health crisis and doing everything possible to safeguard the health and wellbeing of people should clearly take priority in these unprecedented times."

Thank You!

In the Commons, Matt Hancock paid tribute to NHS workers: "We as a nation owe a debt of gratitude to those who work in the NHS, and we need to constantly search for ways to show it so that they all know how much we value the work that they do." 

The British Medical Association has set up a special page where members of the public can support medical charities or just send messages of thanks.

Meanwhile, many UK radio stations are supporting 'NHS Clap For Our Carers'.

At 8pm on Thursday, listeners are being urged to join a big round of applause for NHS staff and clap from their homes, balconies, gardens, or anywhere else they can do it safely.

See more global coronavirus updates in Medscape’s Coronavirus Resource Centre.


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