Inside a Nightingale Hospital: What’s Involved in Setting up a Field Hospital?

Named after Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing, Nightingale Hospitals are temporary hospitals set up in 2020 as part of the UK’s response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

These field hospitals are unique because of how quickly they were constructed. Each one was set up in under a month! Thousands of people have been involved in transforming conference centres, arenas, and other large buildings which were out of use due to lockdown, into critical care hospitals.

Several members of the Innova team volunteered at the NHS Nightingale Hospital North West. They have shared their first-hand experiences of what it’s like inside the field hospitals and what is involved in setting them up.

How many Nightingale Hospitals are there in the UK?

In total, there seven field hospitals already open in the UK, with a further nine currently planned. However, only the temporary hospitals in England are referred to as Nightingale Hospitals.

Scotland’s field hospital, at the SEC Centre in Glasgow, is called NHS Louisa Jordan. The facility is named after a Scottish World War I nurse.

The hospital serving Wales, at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff, has been named the Dragon’s Heart Hospital.

Here’s a full list of the UK’s temporary hospitals:

Hospital NameLocationOfficial Opening DateConstruction Time*
NHS Nightingale Hospital LondonExCeL LondonFriday 3rd April 20209 days
Dragon’s Heart HospitalMillennium Stadium, CardiffMonday 13th April16 days
NHS Nightingale Hospital BirminghamNational Exhibition Centre (NEC)Thursday 16th April 202019 days
NHS Nightingale Hospital North WestManchester Central Convention CentreFriday 17th April 202020 days
NHS Louisa Jordan HospitalSEC Centre, GlasgowMonday 20th April 202018 days
NHS Nightingale Hospital Yorkshire and the HumberHarrogate Convention CentreTuesday 21st April 202017 days
NHS Nightingale Hospital BristolUniversity of the West of England (UWE)Monday 27th April 202023 days
NHS Nightingale Hospital North EastInternational Advanced Manufacturing Park (IAMP), SunderlandScheduled for early-MayStill under construction.
NHS Nightingale Hospital ExeterWestpoint ArenaScheduled for early-MayStill under construction.
Rainbow Hospital LlandudnoVenue CymruScheduled for early-MayStill under construction.
Rainbow Hospital BangorBangor UniversityScheduled for early-MayStill under construction.
Rainbow Hospital DeesideDeeside Leisure CentreScheduled for early-MayStill under construction.
Neath Port Talbot Field HospitalLlandarcy Academy of SportScheduled for early-MayStill under construction.
Swansea Field HospitalBay StudiosScheduled for early-MayStill under construction.
Carmarthenshire Field HospitalParc y Scarlets StadiumScheduled for early-MayStill under construction.
Pembrokeshire Field HospitalBluestone National ParkScheduled for early-MayStill under construction.

*From announcement date to official opening date. For several hospitals, physical construction did not begin straight after the announcement.

In Northern Ireland, Belfast City Hospital is being extended to create a dedicated facility for COVID-19 patients. This extension will be called HSC Nightingale Hospital Belfast.

Nightingale Hospitals are named after Florence Nightingale
These temporary hospitals are a namesake to Florence Nightingale (1820 – 1910)

What equipment has Innova supplied for NHS Nightingale Hospitals?

We have worked closely with NHS Trusts for more than 10 years. As part of the NHS Supply Chain, we typically provide innovative patient lifting systems and user-friendly care beds.

At the start of April 2020, we invested in another warehouse facility so we could dramatically increase our stock levels. This gave us the ability to urgently deliver the beds, mattresses, overbed tables, and other essential equipment needed to get these temporary hospitals up and running.

We’ve supplied several of the Nightingale Hospitals, as well as many existing NHS hospitals.

But we’ve had the most involvement at NHS Nightingale Hospital North West. So far, our team has delivered the following items to the Manchester hospital:

  • 500 lockable boxes
  • 410 foam mattresses
  • 350 overbed tables
  • 90 hospital beds
  • 50 IV poles
  • 30 pelican pumps
  • 19 kick stools
  • 18 lockable medicine trolleys
  • 18 magnetic whiteboards
  • 3 3-tier trolleys
  • 2 filling cabinets
Interlude Care Beds by Innova at the NHS Nightingale Hospital North West
Photo: Manchester Evening News – Some of the Innova beds in position at the Manchester Central Convention Centre

What’s involved in setting up a field hospital?

As you can see from the varied list of products we supplied, transforming a convention centre into a critical care hospital requires more than just medical equipment!

Things like filling cabinets and whiteboards are essential for proper admin and patient management.

All these different aspects of running a hospital are considered by the procurement teams. They form a plan of what they need, then work with suppliers to source the right items at the right time.

Nightingale Hospital Construction Timeline

Equipment must arrive at the right stage of the construction process.

If beds arrive too early, then they’ll get in the way of building work and risk getting damaged. If they arrive too late, then the hospital opening might not be able to open at full capacity.

Here is the basic timeline behind setting up a field hospital:

  • Architects and engineers review the existing layout of the building. They then create suitable plans and designs for hospital wards.
  • Based on these plans, logistics and procurement teams work out how many patients the temporary hospital can treat at once.
  • These teams then set about sourcing the right equipment, medical staff and volunteers to equip and staff the ready for patients.
  • At the same time, contractors begin building temporary bed bays and partition walls. Electrical supplies and lines for medical gases are important things to consider at this stage.
  • Once the shell of the hospital is almost ready, procurement teams begin scheduling deliveries.
  • Furniture and equipment arrive at the hospital. Then contractors and volunteers set about getting everything unloaded and assembled.
  • Items then need to be moved into position – whether that’s in an office area or an individual bed bay.
  • Once everything is in place, final operational and safety checks are carried out before the hospital opens to patients.

Incredibly, this all takes places over just a few weeks! Ordinarily, a new build hospital can take years just to complete the planning stage.

Volunteering at the NHS Nightingale Hospital North West

Innova staff were among the volunteers who helped with equipment assembly and organisation.

Over the Easter bank holiday weekend, they worked closely with teams from the army and National Rail. As Innova had delivered a number of beds, our team were responsible for unpacking and setting up beds.

They also assisted with unloading and rearranging equipment ready to go onto wards and ensuring all packaging and other rubbish was put away in the skips to make room for the next deliveries.

Two of Innova’s volunteers, Almanzo and Warwick, shared their experiences of working inside the field hospital:

“It was a hugely enlightening experience for me. I don’t think I have ever worked on a site that has had the same level of teamwork and cooperation from all the team members.

We all had the same target in our minds and everyone was working hard to achieve it. We all knuckled down and got on with our jobs, regardless of how tough or tiring it was. All of us were working for the good of our people – this is about saving lives and I think that is what we were all striving for.”

– Warwick Oliver, Project & Sales Assistant

“The atmosphere was excellent! There were so many people on site ranging from soldiers to NHS staff to contractors.  Everyone was very helpful, and the great teamwork was there for all to see.

Mainly, it’s an honour and privilege to know that the equipment we were providing can help save lives. I’m very pleased we are to help out our amazing NHS staff at this critical time.”

– Almanzo Hulbert, Sales Support

Continuing to Support Our NHS

At the start of the COVD-19 outbreak, we decided to open our phone lines 24/7 to process any urgent equipment requests. Our team are still available at any time to assist existing NHS hospitals or new Nightingale hospitals.

Please call 0345 034 1450 with any enquiries or to check our latest availability and prices.

Inside NHS Nightingale Hospital North West – Photo Gallery