A number of Dorset Covid-19 patients are set to be treated at the Nightingale hospital in Exeter over the next few days.

Up to ten beds are available at the facility and will help ease the intense pressure on Poole and Bournemouth hospitals.

There is potential scope for more beds to be released.

It is part of the mutual aid effort across the south west.

The infection rates in the BCP area remain almost three times that of Devon.

There are around 350-380 Covid patients across the two conurbation sites which are described as "absolutely full" and "on a knife edge".

"We still have a large number of patients who are very sick," said Ruth Williamson, consultant radiologist and deputy chief medical officer for University Hospitals Dorset.

"The situation remains very challenging."

She added: "It makes sense to share resources in the current circumstances."

Dr Williamson said conversations were being had with patients and their families over whether a potential transfer was right, acceptable and appropriate.

"I feel very assured that the patients will be receiving great quality care.

"It will be absolutely focused care to meet their needs at a facility that is a Covid specialty, effectively an infectious diseases hospital rather than a general hospital.

"I think this mitigates against the fact they there are going to be two hours from home."

Patients who are receiving complex specialist care for other conditions will not be suitable for transfer.

"But a patient who had previously had a heart attack or a stroke or is being treated for diabetes can absolutely be looked after there."

University Hospitals Dorset medical director Tristan Richardson added: "If we can make that happen two or three times in the next fortnight, I think that will just about see us through but it's still very much on a knife-edge.

"We are absolutely full of Covid patients on both sites."