Nightingale hospital in Exeter back in use to cut NHS waiting lists

Exeter's NHS Nightingale hospital under construction

The Nightingale hospital was built to help at the height of the pandemic's first wave - Credit: ICE

Exeter's Nightingale hospital - set up at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic - is now offering a range of services to cut waiting times in East Devon.

The NHS Nightingale Exeter was part of the national response to the first wave of the pandemic, providing emergency in-patient care for nearly 250 patients from across Devon, Somerset and Dorset.

Now, as a result of a redesign programme, the facility is able to offer a range of orthopaedic, ophthalmology, diagnostic and rheumatology services to local people, helping reduce waiting times.

After being decommissioned as a Covid-19 hospital in March 2021, the Nightingale was purchased by the Royal Devon University Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust on behalf of NHS organisations across Devon and the South West region. 

The site has since been used to provide thousands of important diagnostic scans to local people and support the delivery of Covid-19 vaccine studies, as well as acting as a training centre to support new staff arriving from overseas.

In May last year, it was announced that the Nightingale would receive a share of funding from the National Accelerator Systems Programme, which was awarded to Devon to support the reduction in waiting times.

The Nightingale site has now been transformed into a state-of-the-art facility and is home to the following services:

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Southwest Ambulatory Orthopaedic Centre, which has two operating theatres for day case and short stay elective orthopaedic procedures
Centre of Excellence for Eyes, which operates diagnostic screening services for ophthalmology patients and will run a high-volume cataract treatment hub
Devon Diagnostic Centre, which is providing CT, MRI, X-ray, ultrasound, echocardiograms and fluoroscopy services
The RD&E’s Rheumatology department which provides outpatient care and day case infusions.
Dr Andrew Davis, associate medical director for the Nightingale Hospital Exeter and a consultant gastroenterologist at the Royal Devon University Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said: "Waiting times for NHS services have increased significantly since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic across Devon and the rest of the country.

"Ophthalmology, orthopaedic and diagnostic testing services have been particularly impacted, and so many of our patients are waiting longer for treatment now than before the pandemic. 

"We know that for many, this is having a huge impact on their and their family’s lives.

"To support these patients the best we can, we have developed a range of innovative services at the Nightingale which will help us to make a real difference to the lives of people living across the South West."

Chris Tidman, deputy chief executive of the Royal Devon University Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, added: "Over the last two years, the Nightingale has been an invaluable resource for the people of Devon and the wider South West region, and we are delighted that the Nightingale’s legacy of outstanding care will now continue.

"We know how difficult postponing surgery can be for our patients and their loved ones, and so as well as providing protected elective capacity to reduce our waiting lists, the Nightingale also gives us the opportunity to try things that are a bit different, often with the use of digital technology. 

"For example, the majority of patients who receive a hip or knee replacement at the Nightingale can expect to go home the same day of their operation.

"To ensure we get the maximum benefit from this fantastic facility, we are continuing to recruit passionate and enthusiastic staff from right across the country to be part of the Nightingale’s story."

NHS Devon Clinical Commissioning Group director for in-hospital commissioning, John Finn, said: "The additional orthopaedic theatres, ophthalmology centre and diagnostic scans provided there now are among a range of measures the NHS in Devon is rolling out to address the backlog of appointments caused by the pandemic."