ExCeL London is to be turned into a new hospital to provide support for thousands more patients during the Covid-19 pandemic, NHS England has announced.
The NHS Nightingale Hospital, London, will be ready for use week commencing 30 March. The large-scale events venue, which is home to some of the UK’s largest events, will initially provide up to 500 beds equipped with ventilators and oxygen. The capacity will then continue to increase, potentially up to several thousand beds, should it be required.
Jeremy Rees, CEO, ExCeL London, says that he and this team recognises the UK is facing the largest national emergency for a generation. Rees said: “Our thoughts and sympathies are with those who are personally affected by this situation. It is crucial that everyone plays their part in the national effort, working with the government to combat the spread of Covid-19 and save lives.
“We are proud to be able to accommodate the increasing demand for hospital beds and will work with the NHS to facilitate this request. The team at ExCeL London will ensure that we work with the government and relevant authorities to support their efforts in seeing the British people and the UK through this unprecedented crisis.”
NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens noted the “exceptionally challenging” circumstances the NHS is facing and is having to take extraordinary steps to fight Covid-19. He said NHS clinicians and managers are working with military planners and engineers to create, equip, staff and open the NHS Nightingale London.
He said: “This will be a model of care never needed or seen before in this country, but our specialist doctors are in touch with their counterparts internationally who are also opening facilities like this, in response to the shared global pandemic.
“Despite these amazing measures, the fact is no health service in the world will cope if Covid-19 lets rip, which is why NHS staff are pleading with the public to follow medical advice – stay at home, stop the virus spreading, and save lives.”
Ruth May, chief nursing officer for England, said: “This is the single biggest health challenge our country has faced in generations, and we need everyone to follow the guidance set out on how to stay safe and practise good hygiene.
“Nurses, midwives and care staff across the NHS and social care always step up to the plate, and I’m thrilled but unsurprised that some of my retired colleagues are ready to re-join the NHS at this crucial time for our country, which is seeing the NHS ramp up the number of beds, services and facilities to help people to manage over the coming weeks and months.”
In addressing the nation on 24 March, health secretary Matt Hancock, said: “In the face of this unprecedented global emergency, we are taking exceptional steps to increase NHS capacity so we can treat more patients, fight the virus and save lives.
“I applaud the NHS, engineers, and the military for their continued work on setting up the new NHS Nightingale Hospital so it is ready to open its doors next week – a remarkable feat in these challenging circumstances.”
Military personnel have been involved in the planning stages and continue to support NHS England by providing infrastructure, logistics and project management advice.
Defence secretary Ben Wallace said that military planners and engineers are working with the NHS to support the development of the NHS Nightingale Hospital. The Armed Forces have already been distributing personal protective equipment (PPE) to meet the increased demand and we stand ready to assist further in any capacity needed.
He added: “The NHS and our Armed Forces are both world leaders in their fields, and this ambitious project is just one example of what can be achieved when they come together to help the nation.”