Prince Charles formally opens NHS Nightingale London via video link

3 April 2020, 06:02 | Updated: 3 April 2020, 12:39

Prince Charles delivered a video message as he opened the 4,000 bed coronavirus hospital
Prince Charles delivered a video message as he opened the 4,000 bed coronavirus hospital. Picture: PA

By Kate Buck

The Prince of Wales has formally opened the first NHS Nightingale hospital by video link, just days after his recovery from coronavirus.

Prince Charles, who earlier this week completed self-isolation following his Covid-19 diagnosis, opened the 4,000-bed temporary facility at the ExCel convention centre in east London on Friday.

His Royal Highness said the construction of the hospital was an "unbelievable feat of work". Health Secretary Matt Hancock described the Nightingale Hospital as “the best of the NHS”.

ealth Secretary Matt Hancock and Ruth May, chief nursing officer for England, at the opening of the NHS Nightingale Hospital at the ExCel centr
ealth Secretary Matt Hancock and Ruth May, chief nursing officer for England, at the opening of the NHS Nightingale Hospital at the ExCel centr. Picture: PA

From his Scottish home of Birkhall, the prince said a few words in tribute to all those who have worked to create the new medical facility, and to people across the UK who continue to deliver frontline care to those affected by the coronavirus crisis.

Attending the ceremony in person was Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who recently came out of isolation after recovering from the virus, Professor Charles Knight, chief executive of NHS Nightingale, and representatives from the Ministry of Defence, contractors and volunteers.

Ruth May, chief nursing officer for England, will host the event with Mr Hancock and Prof Knight due to give brief remarks.

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The 4,000 hospital has been built in just over a week inside the London ExCel centre
The 4,000 hospital has been built in just over a week inside the London ExCel centre. Picture: PA

Natalie Grey, head of nursing at NHS Nightingale, was due to unveil a plaque on behalf of Charles to mark the hospital's official opening.

The Nightingale, named after nursing pioneer Florence Nightingale, will need an army of up to 16,000 staff in clinical and ancillary roles to keep it running.

Split into more than 80 wards containing 42 beds each, the facility will be used to treat Covid-19 patients who have been transferred from other intensive care units across London.

It was set up by NHS contractors, with the assistance of around 200 military personnel, in a matter of weeks.

But health officials fear communications and a lack of clinically trained staff will present some of the biggest challenges for the new facility.

Leaked documents seen by the Health Service Journal reveal communication is envisaged to be a problem due to the building's poor acoustics and because all staff will be working in an unfamiliar setting in a team of people they have never met before.

The papers also warned that non-specialist nurses may be asked to perform "unfamiliar" tasks, such as dealing with complications arising from intubation, normally only done by intensive care nurses.

After recovering from coronavirus, Prince Charles released a message on his Twitter page speaking about his battle with Covid-19 and the virus' effects on the elderly community.

The 71-year-old heir to the throne spent seven days in self-isolation after showing symptoms, and came out of quarantine on Monday.

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