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Home>Security>Guarding>NHS Nightingale Hospital: Security plays its part in fighting COVID-19

NHS Nightingale Hospital: Security plays its part in fighting COVID-19

16 April 2020

IN THESE extremely troubling times it has been truly inspirational to witness the efforts of organisations throughout the construction and security sectors in building the NHS Nightingale Hospital at London's ExCeL. As an integral part of this massive collaborative project, Wilson James has been using its extensive security and logistics expertise to help create a facility that will treat those seriously ill with Coronavirus. Security Matters reports.

There's no doubt that we are living through an extraordinary period in our history. Indeed, this is a truism that's ably exemplified by the creation of the NHS Nightingale Hospital at London's ExCeL where IFSEC International was due to be held next month. Arguably the UK’s most ambitious medical project attempted to date, it's now one of the world's largest critical care units for treating patients with Coronavirus/COVID-19. The NHS Nightingale is designed to hold as many as 4,000 patients across no less than 80 wards and is the first of several such facilities planned across the UK.

When Prince Charles opened the facility by video link on Friday 3 April, this juncture marked the culmination of a project that was only started less than two weeks previously. During this time, the construction industry joined forces with the military and the NHS itself to achieve something that Matt Hancock, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, duly described as “testament to the work and the brilliance of the many people involved.”

Organisations from across the construction sector worked together to plan, design and build NHS Nightingale and, to the security solutions provider's great credit, Wilson James was involved from the very early stages. Jason West, head of logistics and integration for NHS Nightingale at Wilso James, explained to Security Matters: “The NHS needed security and construction logistics functions to be implemented and we were ready, willing and able to respond. We have been making good use of expertise from all areas of our business to co-ordinate with the military and other private sector contractor companies to support the NHS. The whole really was greater than the sum of its parts and the level of co-operation and collaboration demonstrated across the board has been incredible to witness.”

Delivering the goods

Wilson James was initially tasked with co-ordinating the construction logistics aspect of the operation, but was soon asked to support the NHS supply chain as well. This meant making sure that items including drugs and medicines, medical equipment, beds and hazardous waste bags were received on site during delivery and then categorised, audited, inventoried, stored and delivered to where they were needed, when they were needed and in the required quantities. This necessitated co-ordination with both civilian colleagues and the Royal Army Medical Corps.

Asked to describe the process, West observed: “Initially, we were able to consolidate the construction materials at ExCeL. However, we were subsequently informed that the NHS would need the designated area for other purposes. That being so, we relocated the construction materials to our nearby London Construction Consolidation Centre (LCCC) and replaced them with 25 lorries’ worth of medical equipment. Working alongside 84 Medical Supply Squadron, we configured a process whereby every 30 minutes a delivery was received via separate East and West entrances and offloaded. Our logistics people had to adapt, learn and understand the difference between construction materials and medical products at both pace and scale. They then had to identify what had arrived and what hadn’t, categorise construction materials accordingly and then send them to the LCCC.”

Parts of the process

To further streamline the process, drive efficiency and meet ongoing demand, a 20,000 ft2 marquee was erected to hold two hours’ worth of stock that could be replenished on an ongoing basis. Fully lit and designed to house medical consumables in a dry and safe environment, it also allowed operatives to build items such as flat-packed beds on site. These could then be delivered along ExCeL’s central thoroughfare. This meant logistical delays were avoided and everyone knew what items were on site and, crucially, that they were securely located.

Many of the Coronavirus patients that will be admitted to NHS Nightingale will have respiratory symptoms including fever, cough, shortness of breath and other breathing difficulties. Hundreds of beds have been fitted with oxygen and ventilators. The equipment relies on a purpose-built oxygen ring main on the site. To create this, liquid oxygen tanks and other compressor equipment had to be transported from all over the country. Wilson James was responsible for its safe dispatch and arrival.

Park life

At the same time Wilson James was developing and implementing this complex logistics strategy, on the evening of Sunday 29 March the company was also presented with the challenge of creating and operating a temporary off-site car park. Initially, this was to accommodate 1,000 cars, but that particular design brief has now been extended to 2,000 vehicles.

Commenting on this aspect of the project, West explained: “When we were asked to do this, our first response was where are we going to put it? We then identified a suitable piece of land adjacent to ExCeL and contacted the developer, Lendlease, which informed us that it was actually owned by the Greater London Authority (GLA). After many phone calls, by 11.00 pm that night we received authorisation from the GLA to go ahead. We then contacted Keltbray whose operatives, along with those of Lendlease and members of the Royal Engineers, arrived on site at 7.00 am the next day to begin work on turning it into a car park while we made sure items including construction materials, cones, welfare facilities for staff, lighting and barriers were all readily available. It was simply awesome to be able to do this. The guys operating on the ground even wrote 'Thank You NHS' on the roadway.”

Strategic implementation

Managing the security of a dynamic and complex site requires a high level of strategic implementation. By drawing on its experience gained by dint of participation in projects such as the 2014 Commonwealth Games, Wilson James was able to configure a workable and effective system that kept people and assets safe, as well as implement a ‘chain of custody’ specifically designed to protect equipment. At the same time, the company made sure that workers were able to access the areas they needed without any unnecessary hindrance or delay.

Security across the site was divided between Wilson James, with the company's key focus being on internal and secure logistics, and G4S (the latter taking care of the perimeter). Normally business rivals, of course, the co-operation and mutual support shown between the two organisations illustrates the collaborative spirit that has been evident throughout this project.

Lee Evans, Wilson James’ security lead for NHS Nightingale, stated: “All over the site, boundaries were broken between competitors. It takes something very special to make that happen. This was a tough project with long anti-social hours and little preparation or planning time. Despite that, it has been very rewarding and, importantly and pleasingly, there were no serious injuries, incidents or accidents. For me personally, configuring the security for NHS Nightingale’s opening ceremony, along with our security partners and the Metropolitan Police Service, was a particularly special moment.”

Helping to save lives

As the UK determines to combat the spread of Coronavirus, those who've worked so hard, while selflessly compromising their own safety, to create NHS Nightingale will hope that as few people as possible pass through its doors.

Keith Winterflood, Wilson James’ director of operations at NHS Nightingale, concluded; “Ultimately, this project shows how various elements of the construction and security sectors, from design through to M&E and on to site protection, can come together as one when there’s such an important goal to achieve. Everyone has dealt with the immense pressure in a positive way, employing a “heads down and let’s go for it” attitude. We’ve all been pushed to the extreme, but when the Coronavirus pandemic is over, and it will be over at some point, the memory of what was achieved in London's Docklands with NHS Nightingale will live on.”