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A new community hospital, named in honour of the pioneering nurse Mary Seacole, is opening in Surrey today as part of the NHS response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The NHS Seacole Centre, the first of its kind in England, will be used as a temporary service for patients who are recovering from covid-19.
Based in Leatherhead, Surrey, the site will also provide rehabilitation to those who have been in hospital for routine treatment.
Mary Seacole was a Jamaican born pioneering nurse who helped soldiers to recover from the Crimean War and inspired the name of the new facility, which will have up to 300 inpatient beds if they are needed.
The extra space, will mean there will be more capacity in nearby hospitals to care for those who need care for coronavirus as well as patients who need urgent and emergency treatment.
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock and Chief Nursing Officer for England, Ruth May will virtually open the new facility today, praising the NHS staff who set up this service, as part of the next phase of the response to the virus.
Sir Simon Stevens, NHS chief executive said: “As well as providing important care in its own right, this new service – by recalling the pioneering work of Mary Seacole – rightly pays tribute to our BAME nurses and other staff at the forefront of the extraordinary NHS response to this terrible covid19 pandemic.
“It also serves as a timely reminder that it is their contribution over the past seven decades that has been a foundation for the very success and continuation of the NHS itself. I fully expect that this will be just the first of a number of Seacole services that will now begin to be established across the country as the NHS moves through the peak of inpatient coronavirus care and the need for community health and rehabilitative services grows.”
Matt Hancock, Health and Social Care Secretary said: “There can be no more fitting tribute to the extraordinary work of Mary Seacole than the compassion and dedication of our health and social care staff working on the frontline of this pandemic today.
“NHS Seacole will not only offer a vital space for recovery and rehabilitation, but will also free up crucial extra capacity so everybody who needs care can receive it over the coming months.
“Our NHS remains there for those who need it and we all have a role to play in fighting this virus, by staying home to support our NHS and save lives.”
Ruth May, Chief Nursing Officer for England said: “Mary Seacole made an extraordinary, long-term contribution to community healthcare and so it is fitting that such an important service is honouring her name.
“It’s also a wonderful testament to so many nurses and healthcare workers from diverse backgrounds and from different countries who make up our NHS – I am extremely proud of their continued dedication to step up these services for patient during the greatest challenge in our history.”
Chief People Officer for the NHS, Prerana Issar, said: “The official opening provides an opportunity to thank all those involved who have pulled out all the stops to ensure that as we move through the next phase of dealing with the coronavirus outbreak, that there is the right kind of extra capacity in place to help people who need it.
“Colleagues from BAME communities are absolutely integral to our NHS, both during the NHS response to COVID-19 and beyond, and I hope that naming this hospital after a Jamaican-born nurse celebrated for her pioneering, community spirit is a small but hopefully powerful way to recognise and honour colleagues from minority groups, including those from the Windrush generation.”
Chair of the Surrey Heartlands Partnership and Leader of Surrey County Council, Tim Oliver, said: “It is an honour to name this centre after Mary Seacole whose selflessness and pioneering spirit echoes that of the cross-partner team from the NHS, Surrey County Council and the military who have successfully ensured this facility stands ready if local services need them. The collaboration demonstrated through this project, and our wider response to the current situation, has been remarkable”
“The NHS Seacole Centre at Headley Court belongs to Surrey and provides the reassurance that additional capacity exists. Across the region our nurses, doctors, therapists and other NHS staff are working incredibly hard, together with our partners in social care, emergency services and other key workers to make sure people get the care they need when they need it.”
Mary Seacole Trust Chair, Trevor Sterling, said: “The coronavirus is the biggest challenge to our country and our population in living memory. It is great that Mary Seacole, famous for battling disease and pioneering community rehabilitation, is being recognised in our country’s response to the virus.
“Naming the hospital at Headley Court the “NHS Seacole Centre” symbolises the contribution made by so many nurses and other healthcare workers, from all different backgrounds and from all around the world, who make up our wonderful NHS. We thank all healthcare staff for their amazing contribution to our communities.”
Chief Executive of Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust, Daniel Elkeles, said: “Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust is delighted to be hosting this new facility for the people of Surrey. The opening today is a real testament to the hard work of our frontline workers and the great willingness on the part of all our staff who are going above and beyond in the most challenging conditions.”
“But we can’t do it alone. We all continue to have a role to play in staying home to support our NHS and save lives.”