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Glasgow SECC to become temporary hospital as some cancer screening is cancelled to maximise NHS Scotland's Covid-19 response

By Scott Maclennan

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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at her daily coronavirus briefing, with Chief Medical Officer Catherine Calderwood and health secretary Jeane Freeman.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at her daily coronavirus briefing, with Chief Medical Officer Catherine Calderwood and health secretary Jeane Freeman.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced the latest measures to combat the coronavirus pandemic as Scotland suffers 179 more cases and six more deaths.

The first of the measures will see the SECC in Glasgow turned into a temporary hospital with an initial capacity of 300 beds within two weeks.

A further 700 can be added but she underlined the conference centre would only be called on if needed.

Ms Sturgeon said the toughest decision was to cancel screening for three types of cancer – breast, cervix and bowel – because this would create greater capacity in the health service. That will be reviewed again in 12 weeks' time.

Finally, the government has called medical students to apply to hospitals and the social care sector with a new online portal for applications set to be launched.

This comes as the Scotland Cares initiative went live this morning seeing an overwhelming response of 10,000 people in just four hours despite only being announced a day ago.

Ms Sturgeon said: “I can confirm today that following exploratory work over the weekend we have now taken the decision to start work on turning the Scottish exhibition centre in Glasgow into a temporary hospital.

“If needed we expect the hospital could become operational within a fortnight from now and that initially it will provide us with 300 additional beds but ultimately it could have capacity for more than 1000 patients.”

“It is important to be clear that we might not need to use the exhibition centre as we have 3000 beds available for Covid-19 patients within our existing hospital network and the NHS is also working now to quadruple intensive care unit capacity to 700.”

She added: “We expect those steps along with the continued public response to our state home advice will be enough to ensure that we have the beds we need.”

However, the First Minister said she was forced on balance to take the “difficult decision” to suspend screening for bowel, breast and cervical cancer though it would be looked at again in 12 weeks.

“If you detect any symptoms of the conditions that we would normally screen for, if you notice a lump in your breast for example, then you should contact your GP immediately we will restart this screening programmes that we have paused as soon as we can.

“This is a temporary suspension and it will be reviewed after 12 weeks or earlier if evidence suggests that restarting the program is feasible, however at this moment pausing these programs is an important way of allowing the NHS to daily function effectively with the impact of Covid-19.

“The last measure I want to talk about relates to recruitment as part of our wider campaign to attract volunteers called Scotland Cares. We are encouraging medical students and retired healthcare professional to apply for posts working in the health service and the social care sector.

“It reflects the fact that we will need more people not simply to cope with the direct consequences of COVID-19 but to keep other services going at the same time.

"We established a new web portal for recruitment on Saturday evening, in total, at this time it includes earlier expressions of interest that I can tell you that around 5000 students or former health care workers have now expressed an interest in filling posts.

“They will be considered according to their qualifications and experience but I can confirm that in just four hours this morning, since we formally launched the Scotland Cares campaign, we have 10,000 people registering their interest in volunteering.”

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