Published on Monday, March 23, 2020

ExCeL could become makeshift coronavirus hospital

The ExCeL conference centre in London's Docklands could become a 4,000-bed field hospital under NHS plans to cope during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic.

The centre, which holds numerous events including World Travel Market each November, would be staffed by a combination of military medical personnel and NHS staff and, according to reports, it could come into service in a month's time.

The Evening Standard reports that a Ministry of Defence spokesperson confirmed talks were underway.

The spokesperson said: "To assist NHS England to prepare for a number of scenarios as the coronavirus outbreak unfolds, a team of military planners visited the ExCeL centre in London to determine how the centre might benefit the NHS response to the outbreak."

An NHS official told the Guardian: "The ExCeL will become a field hospital of 4,000 critical care beds. It will be staffed by military medics but it's still unclear where all the nurses needed will come from.

"Because it's doubling everywhere every few days, and because London is two weeks ahead of the rest of the country in the severity of the impact of the disease, the ExCeL is part of the plan because that doubling means we aren't going to have the beds," the official added.

NHS England chief executive, Sir Simon Stevens, said: "NHS staff are working round the clock gearing up to deal with this unprecedented global health threat.

"As well as ramping up treatment capacity across all NHS hospitals, we're getting on with other options too, including new facilities as well as a landmark deal with private hospitals which has put 20,000 staff, 8,000 beds and 1,200 ventilators at our disposal."

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