At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Health and Social Care and the NHS took several steps to build their resilience for the large number of COVID-19 patients they expected to receive. Two of the most important initiatives were the establishment of new temporary Nightingale hospitals and a contractual arrangement with the independent hospital sector. The Nightingales were to provide up to 6,000 additional beds in seven locations and the first Nightingale opened ten days after the scheme was announced. The deal with independent hospitals was to provide access to beds, staff and equipment to support the NHS’s response to the pandemic, including by treating patients who did not have COVID-19. In different ways, these arrangements were kept in place after the April peak in infections, both to assist with working through backlogs and in case of a second peak in COVID-19 infections.
This study will examine the value that the NHS has gained from these arrangements, and at what cost, both during the initial peak of the pandemic and later. It will look at the use made of the facilities and the supporting arrangements that were in place, for example staffing and equipment. It will also look for more general lessons that could be applied to the management of healthcare capacity in future including when working with the independent hospital sector.