Nightingale Hospital was 'like home insurance' for London, says health boss

BHRUT's new chief executive Matthew Trainer at Queens Hospital in Romford.
Picture by Ellie Hoskins

Matthew Trainer, boss of Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust, helped to run London's Nightingale Hospital - Credit: Ellie Hoskins

A senior figure in the running of London's Nightingale Hospital has defended its creation despite a lack of patients, calling it "insurance" for the capital.

Matthew Trainer helped to run the facility, which opened at the ExCeL last April to treat Covid patients.

But it cared for less than 60 people with the virus before it was closed down.

Nightingale Hospital, ExCeL

NHS Nightingale at the ExCeL - Credit: PA

Mr Trainer, who is now chief executive of the NHS trust which runs Queen's Hospital in Romford and King George Hospital in Goodmayes, said he was glad the Nightingale was not needed.

He told this paper: "The Nightingale was a bit like home insurance really. Very glad it's there but we didn't really want to use it.

"We were sitting there last March looking at some of these predictions and I was saying 'there's 900 critical care beds in London'.

"Some of the predictions Imperial College published in March were saying we might need five or six times as many critical care beds as that.

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"So we set up ExCeL to offer us a pressure valve there - an insurance product effectively - to say if we need to use this extra capacity, where could we do this and save as many lives as possible?"

Major spikes in cases saw east London boroughs such as Barking and Dagenham, Havering and Redbridge among the highest Covid case rates in the country around the turn of the year.

The total number of Covid patients at London hospitals reached more than 6,350 on January 3.

Despite these numbers, the Nightingale remained on standby from May 2020 onwards, only reopening briefly in January to treat non-Covid patients.

But Mr Trainer felt it was right to have set it up.

"I think it was a sensible thing to do given what we knew in March (2020).

"I think it became obvious in the course of April and May it wasn't necessary on the scale we needed it to and to be honest, I was quite relieved that we managed to close it with only having had 54 patients.

"For us to have needed the Nightingale - things would have been so bad everywhere else, we would have been in quite a horrible situation as a city."

The ExCeL in Newham's Royal Docks has now returned to its normal use as an events venue.