A4 printed poster "Access to the NHS Nightingale Hospital is Changing" showing routes and parking for NHS staff and contractors, after ExCel parking was no longer being used from 23:59 hrs, Tuesday 31 March 2020, with NHS logo, unknown maker, 2020
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.