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NHS Nightingale: First temporary coronavirus hospital opens in London’s Excel Centre

Prince Charles hails ‘spectacular and almost unbelievable feat of work’ at official ceremony

Peter Stubley
Friday 03 April 2020 20:38 BST

The new NHS Nightingale hospital in east London was officially opened by Prince Charles as it prepares to take its first coronavirus patients next week.

Appearing at the ceremony by video link from his home 500 miles away in Birkhall, Aberdeenshire, the heir to the throne hailed the temporary facility as a “practical message of hope for those who will need it most at this time of national suffering”.

Charles, who has completed a period of self-isolation after contracting coronavirus, said: “It is without doubt a spectacular and almost unbelievable feat of work in every sense — from its speed of construction, as we’ve heard, to its size and the skills of those who have created it.

“An example, if ever one was needed, of how the impossible can be made possible and how we can achieve the unthinkable through human will and ingenuity.”

Health secretary Matt Hancock, who has also recently emerged from quarantine, attended the ceremony in person — albeit two metres away from senior NHS figures involved in the project.

Mr Hancock said the “extraordinary project” — most of which was completed in just nine days with the assistance of around 200 military personnel — was a “testament to the work and the brilliance of the many people involved”.

NHS Nightingale, named after nursing pioneer Florence Nightingale, will need an army of up to 16,000 staff in clinical and ancillary roles to keep it running.

Split into more than 80 wards containing 42 beds each, the facility will be used to treat Covid-19 patients who have been transferred from other intensive care units across London. It will initially hold 500 patients, but has room for up to 4,000.

The Nightingale is the first of six new temporary hospitals to be set up across the country to cope with the outbreak. Facilities in Birmingham and Manchester are both due to open on 12 April, with others to follow in Bristol, Harrogate and Glasgow.

Additional reporting by agencies

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