New role for NHS Nightingale, Exeter

The NHS Nightingale Hospital Exeter is getting a new role with two new operating theatres and outpatient services.

Owl is losing track of all this repurposing. Just over a year ago, on July 1, 2020 Owl posted “Now for Plan C – Devon’s Nightingale hospital will not treat Coronavirus patients”. It started taking cancer patients on July 7. Then on 26 November Owl reported it was starting to treat Covid patients. So are we now on Plan E?

Radio Exe News 

NHS Nightingale Exeter before taking covid patients

The service, at a former DIY shop on Sowton Industrial Estate, is going to provide a range of services from this autumn to help tackle waiting lists across Devon and the wider south west.

It was built to cope with an expected influx of covid patients at a time when the country was preparing for the worst. In the end, it treated 250 patients from three counties.

After being decommissioned as a covid hospital earlier this year, the Nightingale was bought by NHS organisations across the region and used to provide diagnostic scans to local people, host a covid vaccine trial and train overseas nurses.

Local health bosses say plans are well underway to extend services to include planned orthopaedic surgery, ophthalmology and rheumatology services, as well as increasing the range of diagnostic services such as MRI scans.   

It’s already been announced that Exeter’s Nightingale would receive funding from the National Accelerator Systems Programme to increase capacity so that waiting times for certain operations are cut.

From the autumn, the former covid inpatient hospital will provide:

  • two operating theatres for day case/ short stay elective (planned) orthopaedic procedures
  • high volume cataract and diagnostic hub for glaucoma and medical retina
  • a community diagnostic hub to include CT and MRI
  • an outpatient rheumatology and infusions centre

Dr Elizabeth Wilkinson, consultant medical ophthalmologist at Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust (NDHT) and clinical lead for ophthalmology at NHS Devon Clinical Commissioning Group said: “During the pandemic, many NHS organisations across the country had to postpone planned procedures so that we could care for patients with covid-19 and continue to treat those with urgent care needs.

“Ophthalmology, orthopaedic, rheumatology and diagnostic testing services have been particularly affected across Devon, and so despite our best efforts, our waiting lists have grown. This means that many of our patients are waiting longer for treatment now than before the pandemic.

“We know how difficult postponing or cancelling surgery can be for our patients and their loved ones, so developing new innovative services in the Nightingale will help us to better prioritise the most urgent patients and those who have been waiting the longest.”

Chris Tidman, deputy chief executive of the Royal Devon & Exeter NHS Foundation Trust (RD&E) and NDHT said: “As well as caring for nearly 250 patients with COVID-19 from across three counties in the height of the pandemic, the NHS Nightingale Hospital Exeter has also provided over 6,000 important diagnostic scans to local people, supported the delivery of two covid vaccine studies and hosted overseas nurse training for three local NHS Trusts. 

“Our staff and volunteers created an exceptional facility that was much needed to  manage COVID-19 demand, and we are delighted that the Nightingale’s legacy of outstanding care will now continue, helping us to find new ways of working to further reduce waiting times for patients across the south west.

“To support this work, we will be recruiting additional medical, nursing, AHP and support staff over the coming months to work across orthopaedics, ophthalmology and imaging, with opportunities across both the Nightingale and our main hospital sites.”