The ExCeL Arena in London, often used for exhibition events such as The Facilities Show, is being converted into a hospital to help the capital city deal with the expected peak in cases for coronavirus over the coming weeks.
The conference centre, to be renamed NHS Nightingale Hospital, will initially provide 500 ventilator- and oxygen-equipped beds when it opens at the beginning of next week. This capacity is likely to increase to several thousand as and when the city requires it.
National newspapers, The Metro and the Guardian, are reporting the ExCeL will be the first of several crisis centres across the United Kingdom to help with the Covid-19 pandemic.
Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, 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 added: “Our military planners and engineers are working hand in hand with the NHS to support their 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.”
Sir Simon Stevens, NHS Chief Executive, said: “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.
“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 that no health service in the world will cope if coronavirus 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.”