Patients in the south west will get seen sooner thanks to the help of 60 Network Rail workers who helped transform a DIY store in Exeter into a new Nightingale Hospital.

The Nightingale Hospital in Sowton Industrial Estate is now ready to treat patients following a huge effort by volunteers, including Network Rail workers, to turn the former Homebase store into a modern hospital.

Initially, the hospital was earmarked to help with COVID-19 patients but with low numbers of cases in the south west it will instead be used for local patients with a CT scanner also available to help provide people with safer and faster access to tests for a range of conditions, including cancer, from this Thursday (16 July).  

Network Rail workers worked for five days in the build up to the hospital opening and helped with tasks such as assembling more than £30,000 worth of IKEA furniture, fitting out hospital wards with specialist and clinical equipment; installing 120 specialist beds, deep cleaning the hospital and installing cabling throughout the hospital.

Speaking about his time at Exeter’s Nightingale Hospital, Nick Millington, director of Network Rail safety taskforce, said:

“We are proud that we have been able to play a part in getting Exeter Nightingale Hospital ready to treat patients.

“Like so many people across the country, we have had so much pride and emotion for our NHS and NHS staff over the last few months, and we felt we needed to give something back in whatever way possible.

“Whilst it is comforting that cases of COVID-19 are so low in the south west that the hospital is not needed for its original purpose, it is vital those patients that require screenings can get seen and the hospital opening will mean that can happen sooner.”