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First patients arrive at London's new Nightingale Hospital

First patients arrive at London’s new Nightingale Hospital as it officially joins the nation’s battle against coronavirus

  • NHS Nightingale has converted sports centre into 4,000 patient facility 
  • The ‘spectacular’ hospital was opened by Prince Charles on video link on Friday 
  • Tonight it has opened up to patients and is being staffed by NHS medics
  • It has been created to boost capacity as London is nation’s COVID-19 epicentre 

The first patients have arrived at London’s new Nightingale Hospital tonight as it officially joins the nation’s battle against coronavirus.

Professor Richard Schilling, a consultant cardiologist, tweeted a photo with his colleagues tonight. He wrote: ‘⁦@NightingaleLDN ⁩is now open to help London. Here is the first team coming on duty.’

It comes after Dominic Raab, standing in for Boris Johnson who is in intensive care with the disease, confirmed Tuesday was Britain’s deadliest day so far with another 854 fatalities, taking the total to 6,227.

Meanwhile Downing Street confirmed another 3,634 people had been infected, taking the total to 55,242 with COVID-19.

The first patients have arrived at London ‘s new Nightingale Hospital tonight as it officially joins the nation’s battle against coronavirus

Paramedics and medical staff with waiting ambulances outside the NHS Nightingale Hospital at the ExCel centre in London

Professor Richard Schilling, a consultant cardiologist at London Bridge Hospital, tweeted a photo with his colleagues tonight

Prince Charles opened the Nightingale Hospital by video link on Friday, a 100-acre site at London’s ExCel sports centre which has been converted for up to 4,000 patients.  

The Prince of Wales told how he was ‘enormously touched’ to have been asked to launch the facility via video-link from his Scottish home at Birkhall.

His address came four days after Charles completed self-isolation following his own diagnosis, although he only suffered ‘mild’ symptoms. 

The opening was attended in person by Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Health Minister Nadine Dorries, who have also both had the virus but now recovered.

Charles told those gathered at the Hospital’s entrance: ‘I was enormously touched to have been asked to open the Nightingale Hospital as part of a mass mobilisation to withstand the coronavirus crisis.

‘It is without doubt a spectacular and almost unbelievable feat of work in every sense, from its speed of construction in just nine days to its size and the skills of those who have a created it.’  

A hospital bed and respirator at ExCel London, seen inside during its conversion into the temporary NHS Nightingale Hospital

The new hospital (seen in timelapse footage) is part of a nationwide push to increase capacity on a huge scale

He went on to say: ‘I need hardly say that the name of this hospital could not have been more aptly chosen. Florence Nightingale, the Lady with the Lamp, brought hope and healing to thousands in their darkest hour. In this dark time, this place will be a shining light.

‘It is symbolic of the selfless care and devoted service taking place in innumerable settings, with countless individuals, throughout the United Kingdom.’

The plaque unveiled at the Hospital says it was opened by the Prince of Wales on April 3.

‘This plaque is a tribute to the engineers, members of the armed forces, NHS staff, contractors and public volunteers who helped to build this hospital in March 2020,’ it says.

A handout picture released by 10 Downing Street, the office of the British prime minister on March 27, 2020 shows military and contractors building the Nightingale Hospital for novel coronavirus Covid-19 patients at the Excel centre

Health Secretary, Matt Hancock at the opening of the NHS Nightingale Hospital at the ExCel centre in London on April 3

The ExCel centre in London, which has been made into the temporary NHS Nightingale hospital to help tackle the coronavirus outbreak

Mr Hancock praised all those involved in the setting up of the Hospital during a speech at the opening ceremony, in which he also paid tribute to the NHS and the way its staff are dealing with the virus crisis.

He said the ‘extraordinary project’, the core of which was completed in just nine days, was a ‘testament to the work and the brilliance of the many people involved’.

Mr Hancock added: ‘In these troubled times with this invisible killer stalking the whole world, the fact that in this country we have the NHS is even more valuable than before.’

Mr Hancock also said similar facilities – also called Nightingale Hospitals – were being set up in Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow. 

How big is NHS Nightingale, who will it treat and why the name?

– Why ‘Nightingale’?

The NHS Nightingale Hospital is named after nursing pioneer Florence Nightingale, who helped soldiers during the Crimean War – fought from 1853-56. The Hospital’s wards will also be named after influential British nurses such as Seacole, Saunders and Kinnair.

– Where is it being built?

The new facility is being set up by converting the 100-acre site of the ExCel convention centre in Newham, east London. The location was only announced to the public on March 24, and Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Thursday that similar facilities would soon be set up in Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow.

– By whom?

A combination of NHS staff, contractors and up to 200 military personnel have taken part in construction – which was completed in just nine days. Some workers are reported to have taken on 15-hour shifts to get the work done as quickly as possible.

– Who will it treat?

The facility will be used to treat Covid-19 patients who have been transferred from other intensive care units (ICU) across London. Those who are admitted to the Hospital will already be on a ventilator and will remain at the Nightingale until their course of ventilation is finished, the Hospital’s chief medical director has said. Coronavirus patients suffering from other serious conditions – such as cardiac issues – will be cared for at other specialist centres.

– How many patients can it treat?

NHS Nightingale will have a 4,000 bed capacity and will be split into more than 80 wards containing 42 beds each. Mr Hancock said that it will be the ‘equivalent of 10 district general hospitals.’

– What about staff?

Up to 16,000 staff may be required to run the facility at full capacity. Hundreds of volunteers from the St John Ambulance charity with differing levels of clinical training have volunteered to help out with operations, with around 100 expected to work every shift.

– How will they be looked after?

Staff working at the Nightingale will be able to sleep at nearby hotels once they finish their shift, the Hospital’s director of nursing, Eamonn Sullivan, said – though they can also choose to go home.

– Is there enough equipment and resources?

The Nightingale will use all ‘new kit’, but concerns have been raised that staffing the Hospital with bank staff might lead to shortfalls in other parts of the health service. Bosses at the Hospital are reportedly worried about the number of ambulances and trained crew needed to bring cases to the site. Draft clinical models seen estimate 60 ambulances will be needed to facilitate emergency transfers.

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