Secretary of State, Ladies and Gentlemen.
If I may say so, I was enormously touched to have been asked to open the Nightingale Hospital as part of a mass mobilization to withstand the coronavirus crisis. It is without doubt a spectacular and almost unbelievable feat of work in every sense – from its speed of construction as we’ve heard to its size and the skills of those who have created it. An example, if ever one was needed of how the impossible can be made possible and how we can achieve the unthinkable through human will and ingenuity.
The creation of this hospital is above all the result of an extraordinary collaboration and partnership between N.H.S. managers, the military and all those involved to create a centre on a scale that has never been seen before in the United Kingdom.
To convert one of the largest national conference centres into a field hospital starting with 500 beds and with a potential of 4,000 is, quite frankly, incredible.
Now I was one of the lucky ones to have COVID-19 relatively mildly. And if I may say so, I’m so glad to see The Secretary of State has also recovered. But for some it will be a much harder journey. I am therefore so relieved that everyone can now have the reassurance that they will get all the necessary technical care that they may need and every chance to return to a normal life. This hospital therefore offers us an intensely practical message of hope for those who will need it most at this time of national suffering. Let us also pray Ladies and Gentlemen, that it will be required for as short a time and for as few people as possible.
On behalf of the nation, I want to say a very big thank you to the planners, the builders, the Armed Forces, the generous companies and organisations which have donated equipment and services, and all the support staff, who have made this possible. Also we owe an immense debt of gratitude to the doctors, the nurses, the technicians, the staff – currently working in the health service and those coming out of retirement – and the voluntary workers who will be working within it. I can only offer my special thoughts and prayers to all those who will receive care within it and let us hope that it will not be too long before this terrible disease has left our land.
I need hardly say that the name of this hospital could not have been more aptly chosen. Florence Nightingale, The Lady with the Lamp, brought hope and healing to thousands in their darkest hour. In this dark time, this place will be a shining light.
It is symbolic of the selfless care and devoted service taking place in innumerable settings, with countless individuals, throughout the United Kingdom.
Ladies and gentlemen, as the wonders of modern technology can only do so much – and I can’t quite reach! – perhaps I could invite Nightingale’s Head of Nursing, Natalie Grey, on my behalf, to unveil the plaque to declare N.H.S. Nightingale Hospital, open.