Coronavirus: Temporary hospital at ExCeL to care for initial 500 patients

PUBLISHED: 15:00 25 March 2020 | UPDATED: 17:21 25 March 2020

The ExCeL will be used as a temporary hospital during the coronavirus crisis. Picture: Ken Mears

The ExCeL will be used as a temporary hospital during the coronavirus crisis. Picture: Ken Mears


The temporary hospital being set up at the ExCeL will care for an initial 500 coronavirus patients when it opens next week.

The Royal Docks venue is currently being refitted to allow it to take up to 4,000 beds with oxygen and ventilators across two wards.

The hospital, to be known as NHS Nightingale, will be mainly staffed by NHS doctors and nurses, although military medics will also tend to those requiring treatment for Covid-19. Some of the NHS staff will be those coming out of retirement.

Health secretary Matt Hancock, who announced the new hospital yesterday (Tuesday, March 24), said it was an “exceptional step” designed to increase NHS capacity and help save lives.

He added: “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.”

Medical professionals arrive at the ExCeL, which is being made into a temporary hospital. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA WireMedical professionals arrive at the ExCeL, which is being made into a temporary hospital. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Military personnel have been involved in the planning stages and continue to support NHS England by providing infrastructure, logistics and project management advice.

Mayor of Newham Rokhsana Fiaz warned people not to be alarmed if they see uniformed military personnel in the area.

She said: “They are there for a reason, doing a great job in the build and construction of this potentially life-saving project.

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“As a council we too stand ready to support this new hospital and will look to do everything we can to ensure it can become operational as soon as possible.

“Our colleagues in the NHS are working flat out to keep us all safe and this latest development at ExCeL is a sad step to have to take, but a totally necessary and exceptional one to support how they respond to the changing nature of the pandemic.

“I am totally assured that this will also be the case at Nightingale Hospital and there will be no risk posed to residents and businesses in the surrounding area from having this facility on our doorstep, though there may be some changes around the footprint of the ExCeL building that we have to observe.”

The venue’s chief executive, Jeremy Rees, said that the ExCeL was “proud to be able to accommodate the increasing demand for hospital beds”.

He said: “Our country is facing the largest national emergency for a generation. It is crucial that everyone plays their part in the national effort, working with the government to combat the spread of the coronavirus and save lives.”

Chief executive of the NHS, Sir Simon Stevens, said the field hospital was “a model of care never needed or seen before in this country” but that specialist doctors were in touch with counterparts other countries who were opening similar facilities.

He added: “Under these exceptionally challenging circumstances, the NHS is taking extraordinary steps to fight coronavirus. “That’s why NHS clinicians and managers are working with military planners and engineers to create, equip, staff and open the NHS Nightingale London, and we’re very grateful for their support.”

Ruth May, the chief nursing officer for England, added: “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.”

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