Belfast’s Nightingale Hospital in Northern Ireland will be stood down, said Health Minister Robin Swann, as the escalation level for critical care has been decreased to low.

The temporary hospital was opened last month at Belfast City Hospital Tower Block, which was converted into a 230-bed critical care unit.

Swann added that Nightingale may be used again if modelling suggested further waves of the virus.

In a statement, the Department of Health said: “The Belfast City Hospital Tower Block was designated Northern Ireland’s Nightingale Hospital for the first wave.

“Due mainly to the commitment of HSC staff and the positive impact of social distancing, the Nightingale has not been required to deliver its full capacity.”

The health department intends to retain enough additional beds to continue to cater to Covid-19 patients in the coming months. As part of this, the Nightingale will be temporarily stood down.

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In March and April, critical care units in Northern Ireland deployed the regional critical care surge plan, which helped to significantly increase critical care capacity to 198 level 3 beds, amounting to three times the normal capacity.

This increase in capacity also called for staff redeployment and reconfiguration of clinical space in hospitals.

The health department added: “While dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic continues to place additional pressures on our health and care services, it is absolutely vital that we start to re-engage other health and care services, with a focus on stepping up any urgent services which were paused during the acute response to the first Covid-19 surge.”

Reduction in the escalation level is expected to enable the capability to redeploy some capacity for restarting urgent surgery and treatment.