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Summarises how field hospitals will support the safe return of essential health and care services.

First published:
9 April 2020
Last updated:

Why do we need field hospitals?

COVID-19 could still put pressure on our hospitals when services like planned operations return.

Opening temporary (field) hospitals, and using beds outside of normal NHS hospitals means we can treat more people who need hospital care. We want everyone to receive the care they need, when they need it.

It is highly likely that urgent and emergency care activity unrelated to COVID-19 will increase over the coming weeks and months. This will result in more people needing hospital beds while NHS hospitals continue to manage COVID-19 demand. The extra bed capacity in field hospitals will be available to help to take pressure off our hospitals.

Which patients will go there?

Field hospitals are an important part of our ongoing strategy to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Patients who are recovering after being in hospital, and people recovering from symptoms of COVID-19, may receive care in the field hospitals. They will largely be for ‘step down’ patients who are recovering, but will be used flexibly where necessary.

They will not be for critical care. But they will free up vital hospital capacity for people who need it.

Patients with more serious needs, worse symptoms of COVID-19, or requiring intensive care, will continue to go to hospital.

The field hospitals will allow us to care for everyone who needs it.

How much extra capacity will they provide?

We are working with the NHS, public and private sectors to create over 6,000 extra beds in field hospitals and other facilities if required. Health boards are working with partners to develop plans for staff, equipment and medicines.

What about private hospitals, are they providing beds?

An agreement is in place to use the full capacity of all six private hospitals in Wales to support the NHS, as well as the field hospitals.

Where is the extra capacity, including field hospitals, going to be?

All health boards across Wales have plans to increase the number of beds available and are continuing to explore other options:

Aneurin Bevan University Health Board – 416 extra beds

The opening of Grange University hospital in Torfaen has been brought forward, with 384 beds. The health board has secured a further 32 beds through their partnership with St Joseph’s hospital in Newport.

Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board – 1029 extra beds

Ysbyty Enfys Llandudno (Venue Cymru) will create 351 beds; 19 at Spire hospital in Wrexham; 436 beds at Ysbyty Enfys Deeside (Deeside Leisure Centre); and 223 beds at Ysbyty Enfys Bangor (Bangor University).

Cardiff and Vale University Health Board – 1,528 extra beds

Ysbyty Calon y Ddraig, or the Dragon’s Heart hospital, in the Principality Stadium in Cardiff will provide up to 1500 extra beds. The health board has a further 28 beds through a partnership with Spire bringing their total to 1,528 beds.

Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board – 902 extra beds

There will be 27 beds at the Nuffield Vale Hospital in Hensol and 255 at the Vale WRU resource centre. Another 450 beds at the Harman Becker former unit in Bridgend and 170 care home and community beds.

Hywel Dda University Health Board – 1048 extra beds

Parc y Scarlets is set to accommodate 368 beds and Bluestone in Pembrokeshire 124 beds. The Selwyn Samuel Centre in Llanelli has space for a further 143 beds and Werndale hospital in Carmarthen has 15 beds. Llanelli Leisure Centre will provide 154 beds. There's also 93 beds in Carmarthen Leisure Centre; 48 at Cardigan Leisure Centre; 52 at Plas Crug Aberystwyth, and 51 beds in Penweddig school.

Powys Teaching Health Board– 100 beds

Powys has expansion plans for over 100 beds across the county, as well as surge capacity. Powys residents can also use hospitals in neighbouring health boards in Wales and NHS trusts in England when they need it.

Swansea Bay University Health Board – up to 1,297 extra beds

Llandarcy Academy of Sport will provide 316 beds. The Bay Studios field hospital in Swansea will accommodate 963 beds and Sancta Maria hospital will provide 18 beds.

When will they open?

The first field hospital to open to patients was in Cardiff. Health boards will be flexible and use the extra beds to support a gradual re-introduction of services that have been put on hold by COVID-19.

If they’re not in use yet, do we need them?

To date, health boards have been able to manage demand for services in hospital settings without having to use field hospitals.

Thanks to the hard work of health and care staff, and the actions taken by the public to stay at home, hospital capacity has not been exceeded.

We suspended planned operations and other activity, and there was a reduction in demand on emergency care. This meant the NHS has been able to treat patients with coronavirus as well as people with other illnesses.

This is positive news and the system is now in a stronger position to respond to future challenges posed by the pandemic. We can also start reintroducing some services.

Field hospitals will be used flexibly, where necessary, over the coming months and the situation kept under review.

What will their role be in the recovery process?

An ‘intermediate care’ model for rehabilitation is under consideration for the field hospitals. This could focus on physical and mental recovery for people recovering from COVID-19. There could be possible longer-term health and social care needs as a result of their illness.

Powys and Hywel Dda have proposed a ‘step-in’ model of support where community care, including care homes, is unable to meet peoples need.

How will they be staffed?

Staffing will depend on the way the capacity is going to be used. Workforce planning and recruitment includes the extra capacity in field hospitals. This will include current staff plus retired returners, students and new recruits.

Are field hospitals just another name for a morgue?

There have been some misleading claims on social media that the field hospitals are another term for morgues. This is not the case. They will act as facilities for caring for patients who are recovering either from COVID-19 or other complaints.

There are no plans for field hospitals to be used for people who have died.

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