04/05/2020 12:44 BST | Updated 04/05/2020 13:55 BST

London's Nightingale Hospital To Be Mothballed As Demand For Beds Falls In Capital

The new hospital will be on hand in case of a second coronavirus peak, while some emergency GP cover for the bank holiday is also being stood down.

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The temporary London Nightingale hospital in east London is to be mothballed as demand for intensive care beds in London falls.

But it will remain on “standby” in case of a second coronavirus peak.

The prime minister’s official spokesperson confirmed the news this afternoon.

“It is not likely that, in the coming days, we will need to be admitting patients to NHS Nightingale London while coronavirus in the capital remains under control,” the spokesperson said.

“That is obviously a very positive thing. We are grateful to everyone in London for following the government’s advice.

“What the Nightingale will be is effectively placed on standby so it is ready to receive patients if it is required, but we are not expecting that will be the case.”

In a leaked internal message from Nightingale London CEO Charles Knight, seen by HuffPost UK, staff were told the hospital will stand ready should it again be needed.

“It is likely that in the coming days we will not need to be admitting patients to the London Nightingale, while coronavirus in the capital remains under control,” it read.

“As a result, after the last of this our first group of patients leaves, the hospital will be placed on standby, ready to resume operations as and when needed in the weeks and potentially months to come.

“So this does not mean our role in London’s response to the virus is over. We must be ready for the possibility that the number of Covid-19 cases rise again if and when the government eases social distancing rules.”

The Nightingale hospital in Manchester hospital is receiving patients, the spokesperson confirmed, while Harrogate and Bristol are ready to take them.

Sunderland and Exeter are due to open shortly.

A signpost directs ambulances to the NHS Nightingale Hospital at the ExCel centre in London, Friday April 3, 2020. 

Meanwhile, GPs have been told that emergency cover across some parts of the UK is being stood down over the bank holiday in a further tentative sign that the worst of the crisis may be over. 

While changes were made to GP contracts over the Easter weekend to ensure the Friday and Monday could run as normal days, HuffPost UK has been told that GPs in south Essex were planning to return to a typical bank holiday out-of-hours service on May 8.

Meanwhile, a GP working in the north east of England told HuffPost UK that red hubs – modified units for all patients in a particular area needing to be seen by a health care professional throughout the crisis – were to be stood down locally. 

A spokesperson for NHS England said: “These decisions are made at a local level – not national – between GP practices and local commissioners.”