As the coronavirus pandemic continues, The Duke of Cambridge has opened Birmingham’s Nightingale Hospital via video link, making it the second in the UK.
Prince William spoke at the opening ceremony via a large screen inside the National Exhibition Centre, mimicking Prince Charles’ virtual opening of the London branch two weeks ago.
The Duke, who is at Anmer Hall in Norfolk with his family, said: “I want to congratulate and thank all of you for all your hard work in putting this together.
“I think it’s a herculean effort, it really is, and you should be rightly very proud of what you’ve achieved.
“Let me start by reiterating all that has been said so far and paying tribute to the incredible work that NHS staff across the country have been doing to tackle the coronavirus pandemic,” he said.
“Their selfless commitment has touched the hearts of the entire nation.”
Members of the Armed Forces joined over 400 civilian tradesmen and women putting together the centre, which will focus on treating COVID-19 patients away from main hospitals. Some 500 NHS staff were also involved in the set up, which took just eight days.
The site became operational on 10th April, while the official opening came today. The hospital has a 500-bed capacity, which can be increased to 1,500, but has not admitted any patients yet.
“The Nightingale hospitals will rightly go down as landmarks in the history of the NHS,” William added. “The NHS Nightingale Hospital Birmingham is a wonderful example of Britain pulling together.”
The Royal thanked everyone involved in the creation of this field hospital, saying they should be “hugely proud” of what they have achieved as it will provide “invaluable resources for hospitals from miles and miles around”.
“Having spoken to some of the people who helped build it, hospitals are about the people and not the bricks. NHS staff, armed forces, local government, and the private sector have collectively stepped up to turn this exhibition centre into a hospital.
“This will reassure people across the Midlands that if their local hospitals reach capacity, there will be extra beds available for their loved ones here. I find that very comforting and I know many other people will too.
“I want to thank you all so much for what you are doing to ensure we give the best possible care to those affected at this most challenging of times,” William said. “Finally, I am delighted to declare the NHS Nightingale Hospital Birmingham officially open.”
Before the speech and opening, The Duke of Cambridge spoke to staff involved in the build, including associate medical director Jamie Coleman, and lead nurse Helen Gyves.
Prince William asked Prof Jamie Coleman when the first patients will arrive. “We hope that we will never open as we were needed to, because it would mean that Covid-19 has become overwhelming,” Coleman said.
Mrs Gyves said of her conversation with the Royal: “It was lovely, he took quite a decent amount of time to chat to us all, had something really nice to say, asked us all about our families, which is quite emotional, I suppose – that we’re all here and we feel like everything’s revolving around here and our families are all at home, isolated.
“He asked us what we’d learned from it all, how we felt it had all gone, what messages we had and I think Jamie Coleman said a very good statement: that this is about the people in the building, not the bricks and mortar.”