A virtual ceremony was held to open the new NHS Nightingale Hospital Bristol today, Monday 27 April 2020. The temporary hospital, located inside the Exhibition and Conference Centre (ECC) on Frenchay Campus, will provide up to three-hundred intensive care beds for Covid-19 patients, if needed. According to the Health Secretary, it will add “another layer of armour” to the NHS as it copes with the coronavirus pandemic.
Photos: Ben Birchall / PA Wire
The hospital was opened by HRH Prince Edward, The Earl of Wessex who was joined by Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock and Chief Executive of the NHS, Simon Stevens.
The opening was conducted by video link, in line with social distancing policies.
HRH Prince Edward, The Earl of Wessex, said:
“Today, we once again owe a huge debt of gratitude to everyone working in the health service whatever your role. Whether you are tending those suffering from COVID-19 or looking after all the other patients who still need your care or keeping our hospitals running.
“It is a somewhat curious experience to be asked to open a facility which we hope will never been required. It is here for reassurance for the people of Wessex. In particular to save lives and improve the resilience of the Severn hospital network.
“To everyone assigned to work here, thank you. Thank you for being here when you are needed, ready to care with compassion and for maintaining the ethos and values of your predecessors, Florence Nightingale and Mary Seacole.”
Professor Steve West, Vice-Chancellor at UWE Bristol, said:
“The creation of NHS Nightingale Hospital Bristol has been a truly incredible team effort and the speed at which this hospital has been built is a testament to the dedication, hard work, collaboration and teamwork from UWE Bristol staff, the NHS and the contractors, Kier.
“We are proud to be able to offer our facilities to help the NHS and support the local community and wider region at this exceptionally challenging time, and although we sincerely hope this facility will not be needed, it has the potential to save many lives and play a vitally important role in limiting the impact of coronavirus in the South West.”
According to the Vice-Chancellor, UWE is leasing all facilities to the NHS at a cost of just £1.
The new facility is one of seven temporary hospitals to be set up around England as part of a massive effort to respond to the greatest global health emergency in more than a century.
This extra capacity is on top of the 33,000 additional beds freed up across NHS hospitals, with routine operations postponed and patients urgently discharged, and the up to 8,000 beds put at the NHS’s disposal through an unprecedented deal with private healthcare providers.
These measures combined mean that capacity still exists in hospitals to care for patients with coronavirus, as well as other patients who may need urgent and emergency treatment, with the Nightingale Hospital standing ready if local services need them beyond that.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock, speaking in video played at the opening ceremony, said the Nightingale hospitals across the UK were to ensure the NHS’s founding principle that “it will always be there for anyone who needs it”.
Mr Hancock said the fact that the Bristol hospital had been built within three weeks was a “testament to how much everyone believes in that core mission of the NHS”.
“Thanks to this place, the NHS has another layer of armour to protect it from the worst of this virus” he added.
“We all hope those extra critical care beds will not have to be used.”
Sir Simon Stevens, CEO of the NHS, said:
“On behalf of the whole of the NHS, huge congratulations to everybody involved in the creation of this new Nightingale hospital in Bristol.
“It[’s] really an extraordinary act of teamwork on the part of colleagues across the NHS but also partners in the military, the civilian contractors, local government, all of whom have come together in record time to do something quite extraordinary.
“Fortunately it now looks as if, thanks in part to the actions the public are taking, we are coming through the peak of that number of hospital beds, but we know that coronavirus is going to be with us for months if not years to come. And we also know that there is going to be continuing pressure on services meaning that the capacity that the Nightingale hospitals represent will be useful to have not just over the coming weeks but potentially over months beyond that as well.
“For those who say we’re not going to need to fill up every Nightingale bed, we say of course, it makes sense to hope for the best but nevertheless to prepare for the worst.”
Photos by Ben Birchall / PA Wire. Some words by Claire Hayhurst / PA Wire.
Featured photo: Chief Executive of North Bristol Trust, Andrea Young, leads the applause after the formal opening of Bristol Nightingale Hospital, which is located at the University of the West of England.