New pictures show the NHS’s emergency coronavirus hospital coming together after military personnel worked 15-hour shifts to help build it in just a week.
Construction work to transform the ExCel convention centre in east London into the temporary 4,000-bed NHS Nightingale hospital began on Wednesday.
Just seven days later, the facility is almost ready to open, with beds installed, ventilators ready for use and medical equipment labelled.
During a Downing Street press briefing on Tuesday, National Medical Director of NHS England Professor Stephen H Powis said the new hospital would welcome Covid-19 patients this week, adding that he was ‘completely bowled over by the work that is being done’.
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Colonel Ashleigh Boreham, from the Army Medical Services, has that revealed plans for the NHS Nightingale were only conceived on March 21 in a meeting between the NHS and military.
Since then, up to 200 personnel, including infantry from the 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment, have been assisting contractors and NHS staff with its construction.
Col Boreham, who is the project’s senior military lead, supporting the advisory mentoring team, said: ‘I arrived on site and met with the NHS last Saturday.
‘We literally sat down with a piece of paper and some drawings and came up with a concept that the NHS and us thought would work well.
‘From that point there, we have re-purposed this wonderful building into an NHS hospital.’
He added that the number of military personnel on-site has expanded from eight to 60 over the past week, ranging from medical advisers, engineers and logistics staff.
The numbers increased even further when infantry soldiers were brought in to help at the peak of the facility’s construction.
Col Boreham added: ‘It’s long hours. It’s like what they would normally do on operations. It’s longer hours than what people are used to working in some parts of the organisation.
‘We start at about 7am in the morning and will finish at 10pm at night and we have been here since the start.’
All military staff were put on a rotation system to ensure they were given time to rest and recuperate.
The project’s senior military lead has also revealed the ExCel centre was chosen by the NHS, but supported by military planners due to its existing utilities.
He said: ‘This site is perfect. It has a corridor down the middle, it has got big areas to create wards and bays and sufficient utilities to sustain a facility of this size.’
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