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A new temporary hospital has been set up in London to help cope with the rise in demand from coronavirus, the health and social secretary has announced.
The NHS Nightingale Hospital will be located in the ExCel centre in Canning Town, East London to house a total of 4,000 patients in need of critical care.
“With the help of the military and with NHS clinicians, we will make sure we have the capacity that we need”
Run with help from the military and NHS clinicians, the new hospital will consist of two 2,000-bed wards – but initially it will hold 500 beds until services can be expanded.
The hospital will essentially become a large critical care unit where Covid-19 patients with the most complex needs will be treated.
As such it will be stocked with intensive care equipment such as ventilators and oxygen, and it is expected to be up and running by next week.
The annoucement was made by health and social care secretary Matt Hancock as he hosted today’s daily coronavirus briefing at 10 Downing Street.
He said: “I can announce today that we will next week open a new hospital. A temporary hospital – the NHS Nightingale Hospital at the ExCel centre in London.
“With the help of the military and with NHS clinicians, we will make sure we have the capacity that we need so that everyone can get the support they need.
“But no matter how big we grow the NHS, unless we slow the spread of this virus then, as we’ve seen, those numbers will continue to rise.
“And that’s why it’s so important that everybody follows the advice and stays at home.”
In more updates, Mr Hancock said that a total of 6,147 nurses have signed up to return to practice and that 1,800 final year student nurses will be going into work early to help support their colleagues through the pandemic.
The health secretary also announced a new volunteer scheme which hopes to bring 250,000 people in to support the NHS to meet demands.
Mr Hancock said they will be people “in good health” and will help the NHS “for shipping, for delivery of medicines and to support those who are shielded to protect their health”.
“Nurses, midwives and care staff across the NHS and social care always step up to the plate”
He also confirmed that the government had brought in 3.5m antibody tests – tests which can determine whether someone has already had coronavirus but have since recovered.
A testing facility will be opening in Milton Keynes in order to process these tests.
Deputy chief medical officer, Jenny Harries, also assured that coronavirus testing was being ramped up.
The increase in testing, she said, would give the government more of an insight into how the disease has spread.
Additionally, the health secretary noted that 7.5m pieces of person protective equipment have been rolled out in the past few days – amid concerns from nursing leaders that staff are not getting the protection they need.
Responding to the temporary hospital, Ruth May, chief nursing officer for England, said: “This is the single biggest health challenge our country has faced in generations, and we need everyone to follow the guidance set out by government about how to stay safe and practise good hygiene.
“Nurses, midwives and care staff across the NHS and social care always step up to the plate, and I’m thrilled but unsurprised that some of my retired colleagues are ready to re-join the NHS at this crucial time for our country, which is seeing the NHS ramp up the number of beds, services and facilities to help people to manage over the coming weeks and months.”