Today marked the official opening of Exeter’s new 116-bed NHS Nightingale Hospital which was built to care for Covid-19 patients, but is now being utilised for cancer patients.
Patients can now start being screened at the facility which has been transformed from a former Homebase store into hospital at Moor Lane, Sowton, in just six weeks.
On Friday (July 3) health bosses clarified that it will be using its CT scanner to help local GPs and hospitals provide people with safer and faster access to tests for a range of conditions, not just cancer.
It also added its hospital beds are specifically designed for people with Covid-19 needs, and throughout this time the facility will remain ready to quickly revert to its primary purpose and receive patients with coronavirus, if the number of cases in the region rises significantly.
To mark the opening of the hospital today (July 6), an internal ‘thank you’ event was held for staff and clinicians.
Health secretary Matt Hancock announced last Tuesday (June 30), that the Exeter Nightingale Hospital was to be the first to be converted into a cancer testing centre.
The previous week he confirmed it could be used to help other Devon hospitals tackle winter pressures later this year after health bosses stated it would remain on standby as a ‘flexible’ hospital.
The new hospital will now be used to cope with a huge backlog of potential cancer patients.
It will be open seven days a week, from 8am to 8pm, and will screen multiple patients a day, starting from today.
The hospital had been meant to 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.
Health commissioners and providers have also not yet disclosed how much it is costing to build and then maintain the running of the hospital.
All that has been confirmed by NHS England is it is a “nationally funded” project and that some of the information is “commercially confidential”.
Assurances have been made that what isn’t in the public domain will be in “due course” but no time frame has been provided.
The swift rebuilding of the site has seen the former Homebase building double in size. It is a single-storey building and will support patients from Devon, Cornwall and neighbouring counties to support the existing hospital network.