Here’s how London's NHS Nightingale Hospital was built in a fortnight - and other temporary hospitals in the UK

By Helen Johnson
Thursday, 2nd April 2020, 2:45 pm
Updated Thursday, 2nd April 2020, 3:00 pm
The London NHS Nightingale Hospital, located within the capital’s Excel Centre, will treat people who are ill with Covid-19 and is set to open soon (Photo: Shutterstock)

The London NHS Nightingale Hospital, located within the capital’s Excel Centre, will treat people who are ill with Covid-19 and is set to open soon.

Here’s everything you need to know about how the event arena was transformed in just a fortnight - and the other temporary hospitals around the UK.

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How was London’s Nightingale Hospital built?

The temporary coronavirus treatment hospital was constructed in the Excel Centre in London’s Docklands area, and was built in under a fortnight.

NHS London is leading the operation with support from service personnel.

Firstly, the plans for the hospital were drawn up, with the aim of transforming the Excel Centre into a specialist COVID-19 field hospital.

Military personnel then began working on the transformation of the arena into a temporary hospital, combining medical planning, with logistics and engineering, including building beds and laying floors.

The military has also helped to lay four miles of copper piping for oxygen and lay vinyl flooring in the medical bays.

Who will be treated in the hospital?

Those London-based patients who are in need of intensive care and have the best chance of survival will be taken to the new Nightingale Hospital to be treated.

Those with serious underlying health conditions, including heart, kidney or vascular problems, will instead go to one of the city’s district general or teaching hospitals.

The London Nightingale will mainly take younger patients, with other NHS hospitals focusing on older, sicker people.

Some patients will be transferred from other hospitals in London and the south, but emergency cases will still be taken to local hospitals in the first instance.

The movement of patients, staff and resources will be coordinated by response managers in a central command unit in the city.

Dr Alan McGlennan, medical director for Nightingale Hospital, explains that as the hospital is an NHS facility within London, they take their resources from the capital.

He said: "We want to re-coordinate from the centre so they know the best place to deploy staff and resources.

"We are producing a facility that makes best use of that so when we get to capacity and even over, it will be quite clear where to put those resources.

Dr McGlennan adds that they will then “be ready to receive the equipment, the staff and then the patients, at scale and at pace, at the same standard occurring in the NHS."

Will a Nightingale hospital open in Scotland?

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that a temporary hospital could also open at Glasgow’s SEC centre in order to cope with a surge in critical coronavirus cases in the country.

The latest of the Nightingale hospitals would be on standby, with 300 beds and then a potential total capacity of an extra 1,000 if needed.

Ms Sturgeon said the hospital could become operational in a fortnight, but planners hoped that it would not be necessary.

The Scottish health secretary, Jeane Freeman, said the exhibition centre had been chosen because of its proximity to other hospitals in the country, alongside its transport links and security needs, thanking the army for helping the government and NHS to set it up.

What other temporary hospitals are being created?

A field hospital is also being created at Manchester’s Central Convention Complex, and an NHS Nightingale hospital is also being created in Birmingham's National Exhibition Centre.

It is understood that it will care for non-serious, non-Covid-19 hospital patients and will mainly be staffed by GPs.

The hospital will begin with up to 500 beds, potentially growing to 2,000. It is designed to take the pressure off the West Midlands, as this region has emerged as the second-biggest coronavirus hotspot, after London.