More than 16,000 staff needed to run Nightingale Hospital at full capacity

More than 16,000 members of staff could be needed to run London’s new NHS Nightingale Hospital to treat coronavirus patients should it reach full capacity.

The new 4,000-bed temporary facility at the ExCel convention centre in east London is due to open this week despite building work only starting last Wednesday.

Split into more than 80 wards containing 42 beds each, the Nightingale will become one of the biggest hospitals in the world, according to its chief operating officer Natalie Forrest.

Natalie Forrest, chief operating officer of the Nightingale Hospital
Natalie Forrest, chief operating officer of the Nightingale Hospital (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

The facility will be used to treat Covid-19 patients who have been transferred from other intensive care units (ICU) across London.

Speaking to visiting reporters, Ms Forrest said a “scary” number of staff would be needed to run the facility at full capacity and appealed for volunteers to come forward.

“If we have to use this facility, which I really hope we don’t because everyone is staying home and washing their hands and social distancing, we will need thousands of doctors and nurses and volunteers to run this facility,” she said.

Asked to clarify how many are required, Ms Forrest said: “The numbers are scary, but if I tell you that to run one ward, including all of our ancillary staff, we need 200 members of staff.”

The hospital will initially aim to care for 42 patients, before its expansion is “ramped up” to ensure it can meet its full 4,000-bed capacity in two weeks’ time if needed, the Nightingale’s chief medical director Alan McGlennan said.

Coronavirus
Medical equipment on one of the Nightingale wards (Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire)

He said coronavirus patients who are transferred to the hospital will already be on a ventilator and will remain at the Nightingale until their course of ventilation is finished.

Coronavirus patients suffering from other serious conditions – such as cardiac issues – will be better cared for at other specialist centres, Mr McGlennan said.

While the Nightingale will be able to provide up to 4,000 ventilator beds if they are needed, NHS London will still have control over the “most precious resources”, he added.

Eamonn Sullivan, the hospital’s director of nursing, said the facility will be able to operate as a large intensive care unit or a normal ward, depending on demand.

The Nightingale will also include support services found in other NHS hospitals, such as pharmacies and therapy treatment, Mr Sullivan said.

Coronavirus
Military personnel are helping to build the Nightingale Hospital (Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire)

Meanwhile, staff working at the Nightingale will be able to sleep at nearby hotels once they finish their shift, Mr Sullivan said.

“We have got the facility here at ExCel and there is many, many thousands of hotel rooms. It is a perfect location,” he said.

“If staff wanted to stay, they could stay, so it is optional. But if they want to go home, then they can.”

An NHS England spokesman said the equipment being used at the Nightingale was all “new kit” and had not been borrowed from other hospitals.

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