The Nightingale Hospital at London’s Excel Centre will be used from Monday as a mass vaccination centre along with six other locations across the UK.
NHS staff will be used to administer vaccines at the centre, with the government aiming to vaccinate the 13m people most at risk of dying from Covid by 15 February.
Boris Johnson said last night that the UK will have 1,000 GP surgeries and hospitals administering vaccines by Monday, along with the seven vaccination centres.
The other six centres will be at Robertson house in Stevenage, the Centre for Life in Newcastle, the Etihad Tennis Centre in Manchester, Epsom Race Course in Surrey, Ashton Gate Stadium in Bristol and Millennium Point in Birmingham.
A Downing Street spokesperson said today: “The NHS is well prepared to ramp up the vaccination programme and that’s what we will do throughout January and February.”
The site is also being prepared to be used as a “step down” facility for around 60 patients who are recovering from Covid but are no longer infectious.
The figure represents around 1.5 per cent of the original 4,000 beds available at the hospital in March.
A senior NHS official told City A.M. the major challenge surrounding capacity hinged on “staffing it given the severe pressures elsewhere across the London NHS hospitals”.
The Nightingale hospitals, which are spread across seven sites around the country, cost an estimated £200m.
Though NHS Improvement refused to provide a breakdown of costs for each individual hospital, the site at London’s Excel Centre was originally kitted out to host the largest number of beds.
A spokesperson for NHS England said “the NHS London region were asked to ensure the Nightingale was reactivated and ready to admit patients should it be needed, and that process is underway.”
They added that the hospital “will operate in the same way as the NHS Nightingale Manchester with staff drawn from across the health service in London”.
It comes after vaccine tsar Nadhim Zahawi this morning unveiled plans to utilise pharmacies to roll out vaccines.
Current government plans will see vaccines given to GPs to be rolled out to the public, then national vaccination centres, and then distributed across local pharmacies, Zahawi announced.
“The NHS has a very clear plan and I’m confident that we can meet it,” Zahawi said, adding that it would require a “Herculean effort” to roll out the jab to the most vulnerable in just seven weeks’ time.