COVID-19: health secretary announces new temporary hospital named after Florence Nightingale

Matt Hancock reveals hospital plan, 18,700 students joining front line next week and 3.5 million antibody tests to test if people have already had COVID-19 disease

Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock. Picture: PA

A total of 18,700 nursing students are joining efforts to treat COVID-19 patients next week and a temporary hospital, the NHS Nightingale Hospital, will open at London’s ExCeL centre, health and social care secretary Matt Hancock announced at a press briefing on 24 March.

The hospital will house two wards and initially provide up to 500 beds equipped with ventilators and oxygen and will be staffed by NHS clinicians and the military.

However, it has the capacity to be scaled up for up to 4,000 patients if needed.

Mr Hancock also revealed that 3.5 million antibody tests will soon be available to test NHS workers to see if they have already had the COVID-19 disease.

Addressing concerns over a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), Mr Hancock said 7.5 million pieces of PPE have been shipped to the UK over the last 24 hours.

Mr Hancock also revealed that 6,147 nurses have signed up to return to practice.

‘I pay tribute to those returning in the NHS’s hour of need,’ said Mr Hancock.

The health and social care secretary also unveiled a new initiative calling on 250,000 health volunteers to help vulnerable people with underlying health conditions at home while in isolation.  

Nurses and other healthcare professionals will be able to request help for their at-risk patients via a call centre, NHS Volunteer Responders, run by the Royal Voluntary Service.

Among other tasks NHS Volunteer Responders could help deliver medicines to patients or transport them to and from appointments.

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