Prince Charles hails Nightingale hospital as ‘message of hope’ for coronavirus patients

The Prince of Wales has hailed the new NHS Nightingale hospital as a “practical message of hope” for coronavirus patients during a “time of national suffering”.

Charles opened the temporary facility at the ExCel centre in east London via a video-link from Scotland and praised its speed of construction as an “almost unbelievable feat of work”.

Attending the ceremony in person was Health Secretary Matt Hancock, senior NHS figures and others involved in the project and all stood two metres apart, observing coronavirus advice.

Mr Hancock 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”.

The heir to the throne, speaking from his home of Birkhall, Aberdeenshire, said the new hospital “offers us an intensely practical message of hope for those who will need it most at this time of national suffering”.

He added: “Let us also pray, ladies and gentlemen, that it will be required for as short a time, and for as few people as possible.”

The 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 was set up by NHS contractors in just over a week with the assistance of around 200 military personnel.

Charles, who this week completed a period of self-isolation after contracting coronavirus, added: “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.”

The NHS Nightingale – how big is it, who will it treat and why the name?

The new NHS Nightingale hospital, which has been set up to treat the rising numbers of Covid-19 victims, is set to open on Friday.

Here’s what we know about the new temporary facility.

– 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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