Covid-19 test centre set up as Nightingale changes considered
An ambulance at the NHS Nightingale Hospital Bristol
A CORONAVIRUS testing centre has been set up at UWE's Frenchay campus.
The drive-through facility, which opened on October 1, is in the car park by the university's business school.
It is a stone's throw from UWE's exhibition centre, which was transformed into a Nightingale hospital to treat Covid-19 patients earlier this year but has so far not been used.
The unit, which is open six days a week, is the first community testing facility to open in South Gloucestershire and will serve both residents and students, who will have a self-contained "walk-through service".
It is being managed by finance and professional services company Deloitte on behalf of the Department for Health and Social Care.
The council requested it "because people in South Gloucestershire were having to travel quite lengthy distances to be tested". Tests are by appointment only, for people with coronavirus symptoms. Bookings are made via the nhs.uk/coronavirus website, or by calling 119.
Signs directing people to the centre, which is accessed via the campus North Entrance, off the A4174, are in place from the M32 and Abbeywood roundabouts.
In a statement, South Gloucestershire Council said: "You must not turn up at the site if you have not booked an appointment. Anyone who turns up without an appointment will be turned away.
"The council requested the additional capacity for South Gloucestershire as part of its ongoing work with partners to monitor and stop the spread of Covid-19 in the district."
The council says the facility is "self-contained", which means people arriving by car for tests will not need to mix with students using the centre on foot or go into university buildings.
Council cabinet member for public health Ben Stokes and director of public health Sara Blackmore issued a joint statement, which said: “We are pleased to have additional testing facilities locally because people in South Gloucestershire were having to travel quite lengthy distances to be tested."
UWE vice-chancellor Professor Steve West said: “As the centre is completely segregated, members of the public will not need to access any university buildings and students will not be required to leave our Covid-secure campus to receive their free swab test."
The testing centre opened as it emerged that University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Trust (UHBW) was planning to use part of the NHS Nightingale Bristol hospital as additional capacity for Bristol Eye Hospital, which has had to significantly reduce its space because of social distancing rules and beds for Covid-19 cases.
The Nightingale hospital opened in April after being created in three weeks but has remained on standby since June, although work has recently been carried out to ensure the building and surrounding site can be safely used through the winter.
A report to the UHBW trust board at the end of September 29, said part of the hospital could become an ophthalmology “diagnostic hub”, at a cost of
£2 million, to provide diagnostic services for glaucoma, cornea, and medical retina patients.
The eye hospital’s A&E was expanded at the start of the pandemic to care for patients with coronavirus, which reduced the capacity for outpatients.
UHBW director of strategy and transformation Paula Clarke said: “We are very actively in discussions with a number of services, including the eye hospital and paediatrics, to establish if we can make really good use of the facility in the interim with the assurance that it could be stood down if we needed to trigger reopening the Nightingale for critical care.”
Additional reporting by Adam Postans, Local Democracy Reporting Service