Army role in London Nightingale Hospital rewarded

An Army team who helped build London’s Nightingale Hospital in just 10 days have won a coveted award.

They were deployed on Boxing Day to design and set up the facility as the capital’s hospitals were inundated with Covid patients.

Within a week and a half, the team of seven soldiers from 22 Field Hospital, led by the Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel (Lt Col) Hale, two Royal Engineers, North East London Foundation Trust (NELFT) and others, had 60 beds open with a further 300 ready if needed, before helping to run the facility. 

The Army contingent also helped set up a military style ‘Command Hub’ in the ExCeL, coaching the NHS leaders in using a range of military planning tools and Operational HQ processes to keep the project moving at pace

At the Health Service Journal (HSJ) Awards ceremony, which celebrates excellence in the healthcare service, 22 Field Hospital and NEFLT won the Military and Civilian Partnership Award.

Lt Col Hale said: “Being in the military we’re used to being ready to respond to a crisis at short notice. What’s less common is when that emergency is in your own country.

“Literally as I was carving the turkey on Christmas day, I received a call telling me to head to London to lead a military team of engineers, logisticians and medics to help the NHS build a new Nightingale Hospital.

I’ve helped run operational HQs in war zones - this challenge felt very similar." Lt Col Hale, Commanding Officer 22 Field Hospital

“We arrived on Boxing Day and immediately set to work to understand the problem and help the military-civilian team to deliver at pace.  I’ve helped run operational HQs in war zones around the world, including in Iraq and Afghanistan, and this challenge felt very similar in its nature and character, and in our collective sense of purpose. It felt in very many ways like we were deploying to war.”

Lt Col Hale said his team is humbled to have won an award which attracted more than 1,000 nominations across a range of categories.

He attributes it to the sheer effort of those from the NHS, military, building and services contractors and healthcare workers on the ward giving up their precious Christmas leave to pull together in a monumental effort.

He added: “There was immense pressure to deliver, from the political angle, the deteriorating situation across London hospitals, and the worry amongst potential patients and their families.

It felt as demanding as any situation I’ve faced in over 20 years, including 9/11." Lt Col Hale, Commanding Officer 22 Field Hospital

“It was felt very heavily by all of us working to deliver. It felt as demanding as any situation I’ve faced in over 20 years of being a military medic: including on 9/11 when I was working in a Washington DC trauma hospital, treating casualties from that terrorist attack.”

Highly commended at the awards was Defence Medical Services for Defence Covid-19 Rehabilitation and Recovery Services.

Finalists included:

  • Defence Medical Welfare Service; Medical Welfare.
  • Frimley Health Foundation Trust in partnership with the MOD; FHFT Working in Partnership with Joint Hospital Group (South East).
  • Leeds and York Partnership Foundation Trust; Op Courage, Veterans High Intensity Service North.
  • NHS England and NHS Improvement in partnership with Veterans HQ; Veterans in Custody, New Beginnings.
  • South Central Ambulance Service and the Ministry of Defence; Covid-19 Military Co-Responder Response.
  • Trauma Simulation & Military Operational Specialist Team Training Course Leadership Team; Developing Immersive Military Trauma Surgery Simulation; Bringing Damage Control Surgery Simulation to Life and Preparing Surgical Teams for War.
  • University Hospitals of Derby and Burton Foundation Trust; Journey of British Army Military Personnel and deployment to UHDB (members of 5 Medical Regiment and 1st Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment).