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A new hospital will open to provide support for thousands more patients with coronavirus, NHS England announced today.
The NHS Nightingale Hospital, London, will be ready for use from next week.
The hospital, based at the ExCeL conference centre in East London, 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.
NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens 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 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.”
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 by government about 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.”
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: “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.
“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.”
The ExCeL London Centre is being refitted to take hundreds of beds with oxygen and ventilators..
The NHS Nightingale Hospital will draw nurses, doctors and other staff from across the health service, as well as a number of military medics will also tend to patients. The majority will be NHS staff.