UWE Bristol’s Conference Centre to be used as a temporary hospital treating COVID-19 patients

Covid-19 News | Education | Healthcare | South West

Work has begun to convert the Exhibition and Conference Centre (ECC) on UWE Bristol’s Frenchay campus into a 300-bed temporary hospital to provide hundreds of extra beds if local services need them during the peak of coronavirus.

The hospital is expected to be fully operational and treating patients from April 2020. The measure follows the creation of similar temporary hospitals in London, Manchester and Birmingham.

Accommodation that is not currently being used by students will also be made available for NHS staff at Frenchay campus to provide doctors and nurses with easy access to the new emergency facility.

The hospital is expected to remain operational over the summer and the site will be returned to the University ready for the next academic year in the autumn. To ensure health and safety is protected, the University will operate clearly defined separate zones across the campus to ensure NHS staff and patients are separated from UWE Bristol staff and students on-site at all times

Professor Steve West, Vice-Chancellor at UWE Bristol, said: “I’m pleased we are able to offer our facilities to help the NHS and support the local community and wider region at this exceptionally challenging time.

“These temporary arrangements on our Frenchay campus have the potential to save many lives and play a vitally important role in limiting the impact of coronavirus in the South West.

“As a University community we have already demonstrated how we can support the NHS and frontline services, and there is more we will be doing in future to contribute to the national effort.”

The hospital will be run by nurses, doctors, managers and other staff from different NHS organisations across the South West. It will serve as a support hospital across the South West but it will be formally hosted by North Bristol NHS Trust on behalf of the region.

Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group Chief Executive, Julia Ross, who has been leading the set up phase, said: “Having hugely ramped up beds, facilities and services, we are confident that all our local hospitals are ready to deal with the expected increase in patients with Coronavirus over the coming weeks. However, based on other countries’ experience of the pandemic, it’s only right that we have even more surge capacity in place to protect our local population should it be needed.”

North Bristol NHS Trust Deputy Medical Director Tim Whittlestone, who has been leading on clinical input to the planning, said: “If everyone across the West keeps observing the social isolation rules to stop the virus spreading, hopefully we’ll never need this hospital. But this is an extraordinary time so it’s only right we have more capacity in place. I’m extremely grateful to our wonderful NHS staff for rising to the current challenge, but they cannot do this alone. They need everyone to follow the expert advice to stay home and save lives.”

Regional reaction

Reacting to the news that work has begun to convert the Exhibition and Conference Centre (ECC) on UWE Bristol’s Frenchay campus into a 300-bed temporary “Nightingale” hospital to provide hundreds of extra beds if local services need them during the peak of coronavirus, regional Mayor Tim Bowles has made the following comments.

“While we all hope these bed spaces won’t be needed, it is absolutely right that we should be prepared. We all have to do our bit to prepare, and for the majority of us, that is staying at home to stop the virus spreading.

“However, some are able to do more, and I’m very grateful to the University of the West of England for stepping forward in such an important way in response to the Coronavirus pandemic, not just for the community in the West of England, but for the whole South West.

“This is an exceptional example of how people right across the region are doing their very best in our nation’s time of crisis.”

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