Now for Plan “C” – Devon’s Nightingale Hospital will NOT treat coronavirus patients

Was this a local decision or a national one? – Just asking out of interest, Owl.

Health secretary Matt Hancock has announced Exeter’s new NHS Nightingale Hospital is to be the first to be converted into a cancer testing centre as of Monday.

Last week, he confirmed it could be used to help other Devon hospitals tackle winter pressures later this year after initially being built to treat Covid-19 patients.

Anita Merritt www.devonlive.com

Health bosses then confirmed it would remain on standby as a ‘flexible’ hospital. Now it will be used to cope with a huge backlog of potential cancer patients.

On Twitter today, Mr Hancock said: “We will be converting Nightingale hospitals into cancer testing centres, starting with@NightingaleExt on Monday.”

Inside Exeter’s new Nightingale Hospital (Image: NHS)

It has taken six weeks to transform Exeter’s for Homebase store into a hospital.

Building work will finish on the site in Moor Lane, Sowton, at midnight tonight. More than 400 construction workers were on site yesterday.

It will accept its first patients as of July 6.

Sir Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, told the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee today that the Exeter Nightingale site will start screening multiple patients a day starting from Monday.

He claimed there would be a ‘radical’ change to diagnostic methods in the coming months to cope with the growing number of people waiting for tests to find out if they have cancer.

It will be open seven days a week, from 8am to 8pm.

Sir Simon told MPs that a number of private sector hospitals could be transformed into coronavirus-free cancer clinics in the coming months to clear the backlog.

He said: “It’s worth remembering that 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 are over the March, April, May period, there has been a big a big reduction in the flow of patients through those diagnostic services.

‘We’ve got to do something different. We’ve got to expand diagnostic capacity. We’ve also got to do it in new ways.”

He suggested the Nightingale in Exeter and other dedicated diagnostic and endoscopy suites will be able to see much more patients than standard cancer clinics and said staff will use new types of testing to speed the processes up.

Sir Simon added: “The first of those is going to be the Exeter Nightingale which we are going to partly repurpose for non-Covid CT scanning that will begin next Monday and run eight until eight and seven days a week.

Health commissioners and providers have not yet disclosed how much it is costing to build and then maintain the running of the 116-bed hospital.

Philippa Slinger, the NHS CEO responsible for developing Nightingale Exeter, said on Twitter on Monday: “Had a full “rummage” through @NightingaleExt today [June 29] as build due to complete tomorrow [June 30]at midnight.

“Over 400 on site today all managed through @BAMConstructUK.”

The opening of the hospital will be later than originally confirmed.

The NHS said it would be open by the middle or end of June instead of late May as originally stated when it was proposed to build the hospital at Westpoint.

Earlier this month it was revealed that 10,000 square meters of plasterboard has been installed at the site, along with 8,000 meters of metal stud wall, and 80 kilometers of electrical cable – the same distance from Exmouth to Plymouth.

To prepare the site, 4,000 tonnes of earth has been removed which is equivalent weight of 220 double decker buses.