Coronavirus: ExCel London owners u-turn on decision to charge NHS for Nightingale hospital

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Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock poses for photographs after opening the new NHS Nightingale hospital at the ExCeL conference centre on 03 April 2020 in London, England. The London field hospital facility, which was constructed in nine days with the help of the army, will initially provide up to 500 beds equipped with ventilators and oxygen for the Covid-19 patients with the potential to increase the capacity up to 4,000 beds should it be required. (Photo by WIktor Szymanowicz/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
The ExCel centre has u-turned on plans to charge the NHS for the use of the centre as a hospital to combat the coronavirus crisis. (Picture: Getty Images)

The ExCel centre has u-turned on plans to charge the NHS to use the exhibition space as a 4,000-bed field hospital to treat coronavirus patients.

It has emerged that the initial deal between the owners of the centre and the health service had “a contribution to fixed costs”.

But its chief executive said the they had since “decided to cover the fixed costs ourselves”.

News of the u-turn emerged after the Sunday Times reported that the complex, owned by Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company (Adnec), was charging the NHS £2m to £3m per month to use the space.

It also comes as a report from the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre (ICNARC) found that the number of coronavirus patients dying in intensive care units (ICU) in the UK had surpassed 50%.

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On Sunday Jeremy Rees, chief executive of ExCel London, said in a statement: “The use of ExCeL London for NHS Nightingale London has always been provided to the NHS rent free.

“We joined the national effort to combat coronavirus immediately and worked in close partnership with the NHS to ensure this hospital could be up and running in a matter of days.

He went on: “The initial agreement with the NHS included a contribution to some fixed costs. We have since decided to cover the fixed costs ourselves.

“The ExCeL London facility is fully available to the NHS, and we are here to support all their needs and requirements during this crisis.

Adnec boss Humaid Matar Al Dhaheri said “profit has always been the furthest thing from our minds”.

He added: “The venue was offered rent free from the initial conversation with the NHS, and Adnec Group will ensure the ExCeL London partnership comes at no cost to the NHS.

“It is our firm commitment that we will not charge a penny for the use of our facilities, and we will provide the NHS with the operational and logistical support it needs for NHS Nightingale London.”

Other new hospitals are set to open across the country in the coming weeks, with sites planned in Birmingham, Manchester, Bristol, Harrogate, Cardiff, Belfast and Glasgow.

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