Lancashire's coronavirus overspill hospital unlikely to be needed - but top medic warns against complacency

Work on an overspill hospital in Preston for coronavirus patients from across Lancashire has been paused – after analysis of the latest case numbers indicated that it may not be needed.

The army was drafted in last week to construct the facility in the Sir Tom Finney Sports Centre at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) campus off Marsh Lane.

The agencies leading the fight against Covid-19 in the county stressed at the time that it might never be used – and now the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) understands that, based on current projections, it is “highly unlikely” that the makeshift unit will receive any patients.

However, residents are being urged to take the encouraging news as a sign that the current lockdown and social distancing measures are working – and not as a reason to relax their adherence to them.

First look inside Lancashire's coronavirus overspill hospital (image courtesy of University of Central Lancashire)

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It is understood that any remaining work at the site could be carried out at speed in order to bring it into use quickly, should it ultimately become necessary. An image obtained by the LDRS shows the facility fully laid out and apparently wired up, with washing facilities installed – but no beds or other furniture or equipment visible.

Dubbed a ‘mini-Nightingale’ unit – named after the much larger overspill hospitals constructed at sites across the country – it is designed to house up to 150 recovering coronavirus patients before they are allowed home.

While regularly-reviewed modelling currently indicates that the trajectory of cases in Lancashire is heading in a more positive direction, the county’s director of public health has stressed that – unlike some other parts of the country – Lancashire has not yet seen its Covid-19 peak.

“We are seeing a plateauing of people with Covid-19 admitted to our hospitals, including critical care – and, thankfully, the number of excess deaths also seems to be stabilising,” said Dr. Sakthi Karunanithi.

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“However, at the same time, we are seeing increasing numbers of cases in care home residents.

“We cannot say we have reached the peak of the pandemic. There are early signs of plateauing – and this is mainly because of people following the stay at home advice.

“With no available vaccine or treatment, the only way to stop the spread of the pandemic is isolation of cases, social distancing and protecting the vulnerable people. “In reality, until we get a breakthrough in vaccine or treatment, we will be in some form of lockdown for the foreseeable future.”

As of 23rd April, there are 2,305 confirmed coronavirus cases in the Lancashire County Council area, 311 within Blackpool Council’s boundaries and 256 in the area controlled by Blackburn with Darwen Council.

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Across the five NHS hospital trusts wholly or partly located in the county, 511 have died with Covid-19.

A spokesperson for the Lancashire Resilience Forum (LRF), which is co-ordinating the county’s response to the coronavirus said:

“The LRF has been supporting the NHS in preparing the UCLAN site for use in the event that it is required.

“However, we understand there is the capacity within the local hospital system to cope with the pandemic and ensure patient care, so at this point any further work on the site has stopped. This situation will be kept under review and we will support where required as before.”