Work has started to transform Whitehaven Sports Centre into additional NHS bed capacity as the number of COVID-19 cases rises in the UK.
The work is being led locally by agencies in Cumbria working as part of the Local Resilience Forum – facilities taking part include: The facilities will be established at Whitehaven Sports Centre, The Sands Centre in Carlisle, Penrith Leisure Centre, Kendal Leisure Centre and Furness Academy in Barrow.
Andrew Slattery, Assistant Chief Constable and Chair of the multi-agency Cumbria Strategic Co-ordination Group, said: “I am pleased to be able to announce that through effective multi-agency working involving Cumbrian authorities and the Ministry of Defence, we are establishing an additional 500 patient beds across the county for Cumbria’s NHS organisations responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The additional beds will be available if our hospitals reach full capacity and beds will be allocated by our NHS colleagues as required. They will not be for general access by the public.”
Equipment is being installed through this week with the assistance of Ministry of Defence troops who are supporting preparations in the area.
“These facilities have been arranged locally in anticipation of the likely demand on NHS bed space,” added Assistant Chief Constable Slattery, “The full operational model of how the new facilities would work is still being developed. But work now will ensure that the basic physical infrastructure is in place should it be needed. This is a prudent and sensible approach given how this pandemic has developed in other countries.
“I am very grateful to all of those people who have helped us achieve this and the Strategic Coordinating Group will continue to support our NHS colleagues in any way we can.”
Lyn Simpson, Chief Executive of North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust said: “We welcome the news that additional bed capacity will be available to us in the coming weeks in anticipation of increased demand on our services. We are very grateful for the fantastic response from our multi agency partners in securing this additional capacity, and we will now work together to plan how these facilities can be used.”
During elections the Sports Centre is used to count the ballots, but this is the first time it will be used to aid the NHS.