Devon Nightingale’s legacy continues as the hospital tackles the region’s waiting lists

Published: 6 April 2022

The NHS Nightingale Exeter (Nightingale) was initially part of the national response to the first wave of the pandemic, providing emergency in-patient care for nearly 250 patients with COVID-19 from across Devon, Somerset and Dorset.

As a result of a clinically led redesign programme, the Nightingale is now able to offer a range of orthopaedic, ophthalmology, diagnostic and rheumatology services to local people, helping to further 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 2021, 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:

  • 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.”

Paul White, from Fremington in North Devon, was the first patient to receive a hip replacement at the Nightingale. He said: “I’ve had an issue with my leg for the last 20 years or so – after seeing a doctor initially, I spent a year waiting to see a specialist consultant at NDHT and was put on a waiting list for surgery.

“Compared to many, I know I’m very lucky, as I was only on a waiting list for 6 months. But this surgery will change my life – I’m only 66 years old, and thanks to my hip replacement, my body will be able to act the age I feel. I am looking forward to being able to work as a taxi driver pain free for the first time in two decades, but most importantly, I can’t wait to get back on my push bike!

“I’d like to say a huge thank you to the teams who performed my surgery and looked after me. I realise how lucky I am to get the operation. You’ve all given me a new lease of life – from the bottom of my heart, thank you so much.”

Chris Tidman, Deputy Chief Executive of the Royal Devon University Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust said: “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, In Hospital Commissioning, John Finn said: “NHS Nightingale Hospital Exeter has been an incredible facility supporting the NHS in the Southwest, not only for Covid-19 patients from across the region earlier in the pandemic, but also for hundreds of patients taking part in Covid-19 vaccination trials, training nurses joining the NHS from overseas and providing thousands of diagnostic scans.

“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.”