Coronavirus: Birmingham NEC ‘stands ready and equipped’ to become next temporary UK hospital

·2-min read
National Exhibition Centre, Birmingham: Getty Images
National Exhibition Centre, Birmingham: Getty Images

Bosses at Birmingham’s National Exhibition Centre have said the venue “stands ready” to become a massive temporary hospital during the coronavirus crisis.

The sprawling 18-exhibition hall facility would be “well equipped” to become an emergency overspill treatment centre for the expected surge in patients needing critical care, they believe.

The comments come amid expectations that more field hospitals will be announced in the coming days and weeks after health secretary Matt Hancock revealed on Tuesday that the ExCel Centre in London was to be transformed into the all-new Nightingale Hospital.

It will be capable of treating 4,000 critical care patients in two mammoth 2,000-bed wards.

The NHS Birmingham and Solihull clinical commissioning group said on Wednesday afternoon a “national announcement” was expected shortly, but was unable to give any further details regarding a potential role for the NEC.

In a statement, however, the centre’s group chief executive Paul Thandi said: “As a cornerstone of the local community, we are committed to playing our part in ensuring the health and wellbeing of everyone in our area.

“As such, we stand ready and willing to help our emergency services — especially at a time like this.

“The NEC is well equipped to be used as a support base if such need arises, so please be assured that if we are requested to do so, we can action this with immediate effect.

“We are and have been in constant communication with the local NHS trust, police and fire service, and the services are fully aware of the capabilities of the venue.

“We will do our utmost to support the effort in combating the virus.”

Meanwhile, a university has stepped in offering free rooms at two halls of residence to staff and patients, to help ease the strain on the health service.

The University of Northampton is making 300 empty rooms available to hospital patients and those in social care, who are clear of the virus.

It is hoped the measure frees-up space for others who need oxygen and critical care, the university said.

Professor Nick Petford, the vice-chancellor, said: “With more challenges ahead and many more new and much needed healthcare professionals due to join the fight, we gladly and gratefully open our doors to them.”

In other plans, meanwhile, a number of hotels have also reportedly been approached as potential overspill treatment facilities for if and when nearby hospitals begin to run out of critical care capacity.

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