Nightingale field hospital to reopen at UAE-owned ExCeL London as Covid admissions soar

The venue will also be used as a vaccination centre

Ambulances are parked outside the NHS Nightingale hospital at the Excel centre in east London on January 1, 2021. London's Nightingale Hospital is ready to admit patients as hospitals in the capital struggle, the NHS has said. / AFP / DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS
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A field hospital at the UAE-owned ExCeL London exhibition centre will reopen to relieve the pressure on medical services amid fears that the UK capital is on the brink of running out of intensive care beds.

The Nightingale hospital was set up in spring 2020 at the peak of the first Covid-19 wave but was little used. As pressure grows on the National Health Service, the Nightingale will be able to take patients from next week as infections reached record highs in the UK.

The ExCeL will also become a key vaccination centre from next week as the UK pushes forward with its plan to inoculate around 14 million people by mid-February.

“Opening next week, this new vaccine centre will play a crucial role in boosting the vaccine rollout, ensuring we can swiftly immunise those most vulnerable to the virus, and those on the front line caring for them,” said London’s mayor Sadiq Khan.

“The new variant of the virus is spreading quickly and our NHS is under pressure,” he added.

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said it was an “incredibly serious situation” with 50 per cent more inpatients on England’s hospitals than at April’s peak. A virulent mutation of Covid-19 has been blamed for the surge in case.

Mr Stevens said more than 800 Covid-19 patients were being admitted to London’s hospitals a day.

“The entirety of the health service in London is mobilising to do everything it possibly can but the infections, the rate of growth in admissions, that is what collectively the country has got to get under control," he said.

Initially the Nightingale will have capacity for a few hundred patients.

A leaked NHS projection showed that even in the best case scenario, London’s hospitals would be short of nearly 2,000 acute and intensive beds by January 19.

The UK‘s total coronavirus-related death toll is now 78,508.