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ARU director's key role in setting up Nightingale

Published: 6 May 2020 at 10:00

Zoe Asensio-Sanchez

Zoe Asensio-Sanchez was seconded to look after facilities in new field hospital

Anglia Ruskin University’s Director of Estates and Facilities has revealed what it was like to work in the UK’s first temporary field hospital to treat patients diagnosed with COVID-19.

Zoe Asensio-Sanchez, who has previously worked in NHS roles in Essex, was approached by former colleagues to ensure facilities such as catering, cleaning, commissioning, decontamination and servicing of medical equipment ran smoothly within the new Nightingale Hospital, which opened at the ExCel centre in East London on 3 April.

The Nightingale was designed to have capacity for 3,600 intensive care patients, although fortunately only a small percentage of that capacity has been used so far. The hospital was built in just nine days.

As well as intensive care beds, the hospital also had space for a recovery area, diagnostics, ambulance control area, and a mortuary.

Zoe said:

“It was particularly challenging because of the extremely tight timescales and also because the ExCel Centre is a conference centre usually and therefore significant and quick solutions were needed in order to turn it into a hospital of the size, scale and complexity we needed to deliver.

“I am immensely proud to have played a small part in the project. I worked with some incredible people and learnt a great deal in a short space of time. 

“Overall it was pretty awe-inspiring but on a daily basis it could become very overwhelming because of the size of the task required.

“The team of people working on this project was immense and included a significant military presence, both to provide insight and guidance but also to provide people on the ground to make things happen. Overall there was a definite feeling of being one team and working together to achieve the aim.”


The Nightingale is expected to close next week, as the UK is thought to be past the peak of the virus, but will remain on standby in case a second wave emerges.