Coronavirus: Norwich hospital to become East's regional surge centre
Extra critical care beds will be opened at a Norfolk hospital to treat the sickest patients in the East of England if the number of Covid-19 cases soars.
The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) has been nominated as the East's regional surge centre.
The trust will be able to open up to 170 extra beds with ventilators, on top of its expanded capacity of 96.
Bosses said the centre was "backup and support" for other hospitals and would ensure specialist care for patients.
Plans for a second surge centre elsewhere in the East of England are also being developed.
The NNUH earlier this month opened a second emergency department to deal with coronavirus patients, and is building a new isolation unit.
Up to 17 April, 1,448 people had died with Covid-19 in hospitals in the NHS Eastern region, which covers Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Milton Keynes, Norfolk and Suffolk.
'Greatest health challenge'
The surge centre will be staffed by NHS workers from across that region, as well as workers returning from retirement.
It can be adapted to provide the services required - either critical care for those with the disease, rehabilitation of those who are recovering, or as a reduced-risk ward for those needing other care.
That will free up local hospitals to care for patients with coronavirus, and those who require other emergency treatment, said NHS in the East of England.
Regional director Ann Radmore said: "As the NHS faces the greatest health challenge in its history, we're supporting patients and staff with additional capacity in the region.
"This regional surge centre will provide backup and support for NHS hospitals in the region and will ensure patients needing specialist care can get the support they need."
Under normal circumstances, NNUH trust has 36 ventilated beds used to treat the most critically ill patients.
Its coronavirus plans will allow it to open a further 60 beds, with the surge centre status adding up to 170 more, to be added in phases.