NHS Nightingale Hospital London

The NHS Nightingale Hospital London was the first of the NHS Nightingale Hospitals, temporary hospitals set up by NHS England for the COVID-19 pandemic. It was housed in the ExCeL London convention centre in East London. The hospital was rapidly planned and constructed, being formally opened on 3 April and receiving its first patients on 7 April 2020. It served 54 patients during the first wave of the pandemic, and was used to serve non-COVID patients and provide vaccinations during the second wave. It was closed in April 2021.

NHS Nightingale Hospital London
Barts Health NHS Trust
NHS Nightingale Hospital London Logo.png
NHS Nightingale Hospital London main entrance (2) (cropped).jpg
The main entrance of the hospital during its refit on 30 March 2020
LocationCustom House, London, England
Coordinates51°30′29″N 00°01′49″E / 51.50806°N 0.03028°E / 51.50806; 0.03028Coordinates: 51°30′29″N 00°01′49″E / 51.50806°N 0.03028°E / 51.50806; 0.03028
Care systemNHS England
TypeCOVID-19 critical care
Beds500 (potential for 4,000)
Opened3 April 2020
ClosedApril 2021
ListsHospitals in England


To add extra critical care capacity during the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK, and to treat those with COVID-19, plans were made to create further temporary hospital spaces for those in need of treatment and care.[1][2] They were named "Nightingale Hospitals", after Florence Nightingale, a nurse who came to prominence during the Crimean War and is regarded as the founder of modern nursing.[3]


Planning and constructionEdit

Aerial view of the ExCeL London, the site of the hospital, in 2015

On 21 and 22 March 2020, military planners and NHS England staff visited ExCeL London – an exhibition and convention centre in the Custom House area of Newham, East London – to "determine if the armed forces could support the NHS response to the outbreak". Plans to create the hospital were announced in a press briefing by Health Secretary Matt Hancock on 24 March.[2] The hospital would be run by NHS staff and volunteers, with 700 military personnel providing logistic assistance.[4][5]

The facility was planned and constructed in conjunction with the British Armed Forces and British architects BDP, with the mission being run from the Headquarters Standing Joint Command in Aldershot, which coordinates resilience missions for the UK.[6] The main contractor was CFES.[7]

The facility was formally opened on 3 April 2020 by the Prince of Wales (via video link) in a ceremony during which the hospital's Head of Nursing unveiled a plaque.[8] The first patients were admitted on 7 April.[9]

The television medical drama Holby City uses operational ventilators on set, and these were donated to the hospital.[10]

First wave (March - May 2020)Edit

Over the course of the first wave of the COVID pandemic in the United Kingdom, the hospital treated only 54 patients. Preexisting permanent hospitals had successfully managed to increase their intensive care capacity to respond to the growing demands of the pandemic, and as a result the Nightingale Hospital was surplus to requirements.[11][12]

On 21 April 2020, The Guardian reported that staff at the hospital had claimed that the hospital had been "obliged to reject people needing care because it cannot get enough of the nurses usually based in other hospitals to work there".[13] This allegation was rebutted by a Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson, who stated that no coronavirus patients were being refused treatment due to a shortage of staff as the new hospital was to provide overflow capacity if required.[13][14]

Second wave and vaccinations (January 2021)Edit

During the second wave of COVID-19, the hospital reopened for patients recovering from COVID, and patients being treated for non-COVID ailments.[15][16]

Following the development of the first COVID-19 vaccines, in January 2021 another part of the ExCeL centre was reconfigured to provide COVID vaccinations.[17]

Permanent closureEdit

In March 2021, it was announced the hospital would permanently close the following month, along with the other Nightingale Hospitals constructed at the beginning of the pandemic.[18]

Operational detailsEdit

The hospital's role was to treat patients already intubated and ventilated at other London hospitals.[19]

On 30 March 2020 it was announced that legal responsibility for the hospital would be passed to Barts Health NHS Trust, an existing NHS trust, as NHS England does not have legal powers to manage a hospital directly.[20] The hospital's CEO was Charles Knight, seconded from within the Barts trust.[21]

The hospital was designed with capacity to receive and discharge up to 150 patients per day,[22] with the number of staff required at full capacity being reported as 16,000[23] and later as 25,000.[19]


Partially due to its low occupancy and large cost to the taxpayer, the London Nightingale Hospital, along with its counterparts across the country, saw some criticism. Critics argued that the hospitals had been poorly planned, and were little more than a PR stunt. Supporters argued that the hospitals were "insurance" against the possibility of the pandemic completely overwhelming existing hospitals.[11] It has been claimed that one reason that the hospitals saw little use was that existing healthcare centres were reluctant to release staff to work in them, a reflection of a lack of understanding of the structure of the workforce in the healthcare sector.[24][18]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Sabbagh, Dan (16 March 2020). "Army likely to embed medics in NHS hospitals to help fight coronavirus". The Guardian.
  2. ^ a b Schraer, Rachel (24 March 2020). "ExCeL Centre to be used as coronavirus hospital". BBC News.
  3. ^ "Coronavirus: Nightingale Hospital opens at London's ExCel centre". BBC News. 3 April 2020.
  4. ^ Campbell, Denis; Dodd, Vikram (23 March 2020). "NHS plans to turn ExCeL centre into coronavirus hospital". The Guardian.
  5. ^ "London's ExCel Centre being converted into makeshift hospital to deal with coronavirus patients". ITV News. 24 March 2020.
  6. ^ Sparrow, Andrew; Campbell, Lucy; Smithers, Rebecca; Sabbagh, Dan (24 March 2020). "UK coronavirus live: 12,000 former NHS workers to return and emergency hospital to open as death toll rises". The Guardian.
  7. ^ "NHS Nightingale: BDP on the first nine days converting the ExCeL centre". Architects' Journal. 1 April 2020. Retrieved 9 April 2020.
  8. ^ Davies, Caroline (3 April 2020). "Prince Charles to open NHS Nightingale to treat Covid-19 patients". The Guardian.
  9. ^ "Coronavirus: Boris Johnson spends second night in intensive care". BBC News. 7 April 2020. Retrieved 8 April 2020.
  10. ^ "Holby gives ventilators to Nightingale hospital". BBC News. 11 April 2020. Retrieved 11 April 2020.
  11. ^ a b "London NHS Nightingale hospital will shut next week". The Guardian. 4 May 2020.
  12. ^ Lawrence Dunhill; Dave West; Annabelle Collins (14 April 2020), "Nightingale largely empty as ICUs handle surge", Health Service Journal, retrieved 15 April 2020
  13. ^ a b Marsh, Sarah; Campbell, Denis (21 April 2020). "Nurse shortage causes Nightingale hospital to turn away patients". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 April 2020.
  14. ^ Bedigan, Mike (22 April 2020). "Coronavirus: Health bosses deny Nightingale Hospital nursing shortage reports". Newham Recorder. Retrieved 22 April 2020.
  15. ^ "NHS Nightingale: How reopened London hospital will be used to manage patients". The Independent. 12 January 2021. Archived from the original on 18 June 2022. Retrieved 14 January 2021.
  16. ^ Wise, Jacqui (5 January 2021). "Covid-19: London's Nightingale Hospital will reopen for non-covid cases". BMJ. 372: n15. doi:10.1136/bmj.n15. ISSN 1756-1833. PMID 33402358.
  17. ^ "ExCeL to open as mass vaccination hub next week". Newham Recorder. 6 January 2020. Retrieved 7 January 2021.
  18. ^ a b "NHS Nightingale hospitals to close from next month". The Guardian. 9 March 2021. Retrieved 29 May 2022.
  19. ^ a b "About us". NHS Nightingale London Hospital. Archived from the original on 10 May 2020. Retrieved 15 April 2020.
  20. ^ "Responsibility for the NHS Nightingale Hospital London". Barts Health NHS Trust. Retrieved 4 April 2020.
  21. ^ "Professor Charles Knight, Chief Executive (seconded to NHS Nightingale Hospital London)". Barts Health NHS Trust. Retrieved 4 April 2020.
  22. ^ "Planning Application 20/00660/FUL, Transport Statement" (PDF). Newham Council. Retrieved 9 April 2020.[permanent dead link]
  23. ^ "More than 16,000 staff needed to run Nightingale Hospital at full capacity". ITV News. 1 April 2020.
  24. ^ "Nightingale Hospitals to be closed after £500m cost". The Independent. 8 March 2021. Archived from the original on 18 June 2022. Retrieved 29 May 2022.

External linksEdit