Economic Growth

Take a look inside NHS Nightingale, London’s new coronavirus hospital

Contractors work at ExCel London, which is being converted into the temporary NHS Nightingale Hospital, comprising of two wards, each of 2,000 people, to help tackle the coronavirus outbreak, in Newham, London, Britain March 30, 2020. Stefan Rousseau/Pool via REUTERS - RC2HUF9NZMQA

The UK is creating five temporary hospitals to treat 10,000 coronavirus patients. Image: REUTERS/Stefan Rousseau/Pool

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  • The UK is creating five new hospitals to cope with the coronavirus pandemic.
  • The temporary hospitals will be in London, Birmingham, Cardiff, Glasgow and Manchester.
  • NHS and military medics will tend to patients at the facilities, while cabin crew laid off by UK airlines will be offered other jobs.

China famously built a brand-new hospital in Wuhan in six days at the height of the coronavirus outbreak there.

Now, the UK is following suit by creating five new hospitals capable of treating a total of 10,000 patients in London, Birmingham, Cardiff, Glasgow and Manchester.

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The first is in East London’s Docklands district at the ExCeL convention centre, which military and civilian medics and engineers have converted into two massive wards, each capable of treating 2,000 people.

Excel London as a COVID-19 hospital
London’s biggest exhibition centre – now a COVID-19 hospital. Image: Reuters/Simon Dawson

The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) says the Nightingale Hospital – named after Florence Nightingale, the British nurse and social reformer regarded as the founder of modern nursing – is ready for its first 500 patients, just one week after it was first announced.

Thousands of staff who have been laid off by grounded UK-based airlines, many of whom have first aid qualifications, have been offered jobs at the new facility.

Work is also underway on two more Nightingale hospitals in England at the National Exhibition Centre, Birmingham and at Manchester Central Complex. The Scottish government says the Scottish Exhibition Centre in Glasgow will be converted into a 1,000-bed temporary hospital.


In Wales, the Principality Stadium in Cardiff, the home of Welsh Rugby Union, is to be turned into a 2,000-bed field hospital to treat coronavirus patients.

All the hospitals will draw nurses and doctors from across the UK health service. Some military medics will also tend to patients.


What is the World Economic Forum doing about the coronavirus outbreak?

Soilders preparing NHS Nightingale.
Soldiers help prepare the London venue, which has been turned into two huge hospital ward Image: Reuters/Stefan Rousseau/Pool

The NHS in England says it has also freed up 33,000 beds across NHS hospitals for coronavirus patients, the equivalent of creating 50 new hospitals. The figure for Scotland is 3,000 beds.

“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,” said NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens.

 NHS England's Chief Executive Simon Stevens at London’s NHS Nightingale Hospital.
NHS England's Chief Executive Simon Stevens at London’s NHS Nightingale Hospital. Image: Reuters/Stefan Rousseau/Pool

“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,” he added.

Ambulances are seen outside the Excel Centre, London while it is being prepared to become the NHS Nightingale Hospital as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, London, Britain, March 28, 2020. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls
Ambulances outside the ExCeL Centre, which usually holds events including Comic Con London and has hosted sports including boxing at the 2012 Olympics. Image: REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

Three-quarters of a million people have so far volunteered to help out at NHS hospitals across the UK in non-medical roles. A government call for retired medics and nurses to return to their professions to fight COVID-19 saw 20,000 come forward.

At the same time as new hospitals are being prepared, a hangar at Birmingham International Airport is being readied as a makeshift mortuary, capable of holding up to 12,000 bodies.

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