New Nightingale Facility at Whiteabbey Hospital

13 Nov 2020 Kathy Maguire    Last updated: 16 Nov 2020

NICVA recently participated in a  Service User and Carer Engagement Event hosted by the Northern HSC Trust to hear plans for delivery of the new Nightingale Hospital facility for Northern Ireland.

The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted health systems globally and continues to present a significant challenge in the absence of a proven vaccination. Nightingale facilities were developed across UK, Republic of Ireland  and elsewhere during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

In Northern Ireland, Belfast City Hospital Tower Block was designated as the Nightingale hospital for the first wave, becoming a regional critical care hub. In anticipation of a second surge in Covid-19, one which was anticipated to coincide with usual winter pressures, NI's Chief Nursing Officer was tasked with leading a project to consider if there was a need to develop a further regional Nightingale facility to help increase bed capacity to ease potential pressures on HSC services.

 In September 2020 the Minister for Health announced that Whiteabbey Hospital would become a second Nightingale facility for Northern Ireland in preparation for a second wave of the  pandemic.This will be a regional service operating as Enhanced Nursing and Therapies Rehabilitation and Step Down unit, providing extra bed capacity to aid the flow of patients from acute care.


What is the purpose of the Nightingale facility at Whiteabbey Hospital?

  • The  facility will operate as an Enhanced Nursing and Therapies Rehabilitation and Step Down unit.
  • It will provide extra bed capacity to aid the flow of patients from acute care.
  • The goal of this step-down facility is to improve long-term outcomes of patients recovering from COVID-19.
  • The facility will operate on a regional basis, providing extra capacity for all five HSC Trusts. 

Who is the new Nightingale step-down facility for?

  • Patients coming to the end of their COVID-19 recovery in hospital who will benefit from active rehabilitation before returning to the community.
  • The referred patients will require some form of ongoing rehabilitative care with the goal of improving their long-term outcomes.
  • The Nightingale hospital will have specific admission and exclusion criteria and a robust discharge planning process.
  • Patients are expected to stay in the unit for an average of 14 days. 
  • The facility's staff  will work closely with patients’ families and home HSC Trusts to ensure they can be discharged back to the community, so that as many patients as possible can benefit from the Nightingale model.

When will the Nightingale facility be operational?

Given the increase in the numbers of COVID-19 cases across the province , the Department of Health’s Surge Planning Team asked the Nightingale Project Team to accelerate the opening of the Nightingale facility to the earliest possible date.

The new Nightingale facility will open on a phased basis from 20th November 2020, providing an additional 23 beds for regional COVID-19 step down patients. The remainder of the ward infrastructure is expected to be available from early December 2020, with additional beds  opened as soon as appropriate staffing is available.'s picture
by Kathy Maguire

Policy Development Officer

[email protected]

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