London’s ExCeL conference centre will be used as a coronavirus crisis hospital - could other cities follow suit?

The ExCel conference centre in London will begin treating Covid-19 patients within days, it has been announced.

Unveiling the plan yesterday (24 Mar), Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, said the 100,000 square metre dockland site would be converted into two wards, each equipped to care for 2,000 patients.

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The makeshift hospital has been named ‘NHS Nightingale’, after the statistician and pioneer of modern medicine, Florence Nightingale.

Military help

The Covid-19 infection rate in London is thought to be around two weeks ahead of the disease in the rest of the UK. NHS Nightingale will help the capital’s hospitals deal with the mounting pressure for resources, like bed spaces.

“With the help of the military and with NHS clinicians, we will make sure that we have the capacity that we need,” said Hancock.

Some 700 military personnel are expected to take on auxiliary roles at the makeshift facility, when it opens for an initial 500 patients next week.

Could other temporary hospitals be created?

While the ExCeL centre is the first large space to be converted into a medical unit amid the coronavirus crisis, others around the country could follow.

In Birmingham, the National Exhibition Centre said it is “well-equipped” and “stands ready” to be used as a temporary hospital.

A spokesperson for the 611 acre site said, “We are and have been in constant communication with the local NHS trust, police and fire service, and the services are fully aware of the capabilities of the venue. We will do our utmost to support the effort in combating the virus.”

Shoring up the NHS

The government’s Covid-19 strategy aims to make sure the infection rate, at its peak, does not overwhelm the health service.

Social distancing, self-isolation, and other measures introduced by authorities, are designed to prevent the virus spreading so quickly that very high numbers of people all require medical treatment at the same time.