UK Construction and military respond, How NHS Nightingale was built in a fortnight

A global pandemic requires an unprecedented response and the UK construction and engineering industry have produced just that, in building NHS Nightingale, a specialist COVID-19 field hospital, in under two weeks.

The plans to turn an east London riverside landmark, London’s ExCel centre, into the world’s largest critical care facility were drawn up. Today, NHS Nightingale is ready to start treating it’s first COVID-19 patients. 

The facility will have capacity for 4,000 patients on 80 wards, with one kilometre long corridors and a four mile long oxygen supply network. It is a single purpose hospital, dedicated to treating patients with COVID-19. Only very sick patients will be brought here, transferred from other hospitals in London, with emergency cases  still being taken to local hospitals.

This pace and scale of building has been made possible largely because of military expertise as the Ministry of Defence was asked to help deliver the project. 

Colonel Ashleigh Boreham spoke about the military response:

So the whole idea about building at scale and pace is to build a really fantastic facility that delivers safe care at scale and keeping ahead of the battle, ahead of the virus. That’s what we do.

We came together about nine days ago, sat around, with social distancing, a coffee table and looked at the designs of this facility and building. We looked at how to re-purpose it into a design of a hospital system so it has a patient-flow system.

You literally design on a piece of paper what it looks like with the engineers and the NHS.”

Morson have a strong heritage in the construction industry, delivering candidates and contractors to support high profile infrastructure projects across the UK, plus a long standing relationship with the forces community. We asked associate director, Rhys Harris, and infrastructure recruitment consultant, James Lacey, for their reaction to NHS Nightingale, the incredible response of the military and an insight into the state of the construction market right now.

Rhys Harris, associate director, comments: 

It’s logistical and engineering marvel. Going from a blank sheet to fully operational hospital in less than two weeks is testament to the engineering talent and innovation we have in this country. Building at this scale and pace has been possible due to the expertise of the military, whose skills honed on the battlefield have been deployed to the frontline in East London to deliver this critical project. 

In unprecedented times right now the jobs market is clearly a big concern. However when we are through this period I am confident the construction industry will receive the support it needs from the Government, who are doing a fantastic job leading us through this pandemic, to ‘get Britain building’.

Any contractors whether trades, labour or managerial want to get in touch to register interest for when the construction and infrastructure projects kick off again then please contact me directly on and I will ensure you are connected to our clients needs

James Lacey, infrastructure and civils recruitment consultant, is also our ex-forces candidate manager and heavily involved with Morson Forces, our dedicated business to helping ex-forces personnel get into civilian employment. 

To have a full construction package completed in just under two weeks is a real testament to the skills and talents of our current serving and also ex-military personnel. This is the showcase that the country needed to see with regards to the untapped resource of ex-forces candidates. Working with these candidates is a real breath of fresh air. Due to the dramatic fall of construction recruitment in the UK, we have looked to adapt our recruitment skills to other sectors, and what better way to do it than with scores of ex-forces candidates to take to market. I’ve been recruiting in civil engineering and infrastructure but now I’m breaking into logistics and distribution.

This is the new frontline for the UK right now, and to have candidates with experience of high-pressure, tense and clockwork atmospheres such as ex-forces personnel is key to being successful. The beauty of having these candidates is the fact that they have transferable skills and aren’t pigeon-holed into one specific sector.

To further increase our coverage for forces personnel who have already been handed release dates, we are still keeping our recruitment drive going with virtual events details of our next virtual event on Thursday 23rd April can be found here

Throughout the lockdown period Morson has continued to supply skilled resource to essential works; redeploying engineers to assist in the making of ventilators and the construction of NHS Nightingale hospitals. The Morson ‘Fit for Work’ app, which applies artificial intelligence to identify temporary workers who may have been exposed to coronavirus, was introduced in March to support safety on site. In April, its engineers, in collaboration with the University of Salford and supported by engineering design consultancy

Morson Projects, began 3D printing medical visors for NHS staff in local hospitals and hospices. As Britain emerges from lockdown, Morson will work collaboratively with organisations to help safeguard contractors and employees, provide a variety of routes to role filling and play a key part in supporting large scale infrastructure projects such as HS2.

For more information on construction roles or how we can support you find your next civilian role, contact Rhys or James

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