The Queen lends her name to Royal London’s emergency Covid wards
- Credit: Mike Brooke
The new Covid isolation wards high up in the tower block of the Royal London Hospital have been given a royal seal of approval by being named the “Queen Elizabeth Unit”.
It comes in the week that a new Covid ward opens in the unit to cope with the latest virus strain sweeping London and a week after The Queen received her own vaccine at Windsor Castle.
Use of a royal name is at the personal discretion of the Sovereign, who is also patron of the Royal London. The recognition for the critical care unit has delighted the hospital’s NHS trust chief.
“We are grateful to our staff for the way they have risen to the challenges of Covid-19,” Dame Alwen Williams said. “This is a fitting tribute to the contribution they are making to the specialist care of Covid patients.”
Dame Alwen, who received her Damehood on January 1 in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours, was beaming with the unit’s “royal” title which she said reflects the history and traditions of the hospital that first opened in Whitechapel 280 years ago.
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The 155-bed unit on the 14th and 15th floors plays a crucial role taking patients from all over east London as part of the London-wide response to the pandemic crisis.
The last time the hospital received such regal attention was after the 7/7 terrorist bombing of a train at Aldgate Underground station in 2007, when the Queen toured the wards to meet the injured who were being treated and to thank medical staff and other emergency workers.
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The hospital, formerly known as “The London” before being given its royal status in 1980, is now run by Barts NHS Health Trust, whose nursing director Lucie Butler is running the Covid wards “for as long as needed”.
Critical care capacity has now tripled, with a sixth ward in the unit opening this week to increase the beds available. The unit was fitted out last year at the height of the first Covid wave, using two floors of the tower block that had remained empty since the new complex opened in 2012 as “extra surge” capacity for east London in case needed. The events of 2019 proved it is a vital part of east London’s response to the pandemic.