A4 printed poster "There are lots of ways to get a little help. All you need to do is ask" with NHS Nightingale Hospital London branding and telephone numbers for the 24 hour on-site support team and EAP Helpline for Barts/Nightingale Hospital and National COVID-19 NHS Support Line, April - May 2020
“We’ve got your back. If you need someone to talk to, we’re here to listen. If you just want some company – or a snack – we can help with that. And if all you want is some peace and quiet, we’ve got that too”
Dealing with a new coronavirus and with increasing numbers of people to look after, worries for their own and their loved ones’ health, staff wellbeing support was put in place at the NHS Nightingale Hospital and at NHS Trusts around the country. Support included a team led by Lt Col Rod Eldridge, who created a team of ex-army and navy nurses who were on call 24/7. They conducted induction and exit interviews and were present around the hospital, particularly at the donning and doffing areas – where PPE is put on and taken off. Wellbeing support also included a quiet room, updates in the weekly newsletter, 1-2- and group sessions and freed food and drink on site. Support was also extended to staff’s families as well. The pre pandemic model of the NHS was to put the patient at the centre of care but for COVID-19 the model has changed to include staff and the patient at the centre.
The NHS Nightingale Hospital at the ExCel Centre in London was the first of seven Nightingale hospitals to be opened. Extra beds were planned after concerns over the ability of the National Health Service to cope with high numbers of people requiring treatment during the first wave of COVID-19. Drawing on the expertise of creating military field hospitals, NHS Nightingale London, the size of ten football pitches, was fitted out in just nine days. Opened virtually by Prince Charles on 3 April 2020, the hospital had capacity for 4000 beds in wards named after historic figures from British medical history. Staff were drawn from across NHS England and the armed services for their expertise including critical care, physiotherapy, security, and Family Liaison and Support Teams. Volunteers from St John Ambulance and air crew from Virgin Atlantic and Easyjet helped with way finding and assisting staff.
Only a small proportion of beds were ever used as NHS Trusts could not release staff. Existing hospitals transformed spaces into critical care wards. The NHS Nightingale London Hospital closed on Nurses Day on 12 May 2020 with 700 people debriefed at the 02. In January 2021, it reopened to treat non-coronavirus patients after being on standby since May 2020. Between 11 January 2021 and 25 June 2021, it was a mass vaccination centre, delivering 130,000 jabs. For both uses it was overseen by Barts Health Trust. Described by the NHS as the “ultimate insurance policy”, some questioned the £500 million cost of building and maintaining the seven sites.