Just over a week ago, our client, Barts Health NHS Trust, was asked by NHS England to host the new hospital being built for Covid-19 patients at the ExCeL exhibition centre in London.

Just over a week ago, our client, Barts Health NHS Trust, was asked by NHS England to host the new hospital being built for Covid-19 patients at the ExCeL exhibition centre in London. The Trust faced an incredibly complex challenge against a demanding timeline, but through trusted relationships and a true partnership approach, we have been able to support Barts Health in responding rapidly and effectively in their battle to save lives. In normal circumstance, it could take up to a year or longer for something of this scale which, upon completion, will have over 10,000 staff and a capacity of 4000 ICU beds with supporting services, by the anticipated peak of the coronavirus pandemic next month.

Our relationship with the Trust is longstanding having delivered a number of transformative projects over several years and having previously provided urgent support in events such as WannaCry, and now COVID-19. To support the Trust with this unprecedented undertaking, we mobilised a dedicated team of technical experts led by Marc Chang, CEO, who have been working every day around the clock since Wednesday 25th of March to stand up the IT infrastructure at the London Nightingale Hospital.

Alwen Williams Group Chief Executive at Barts said “We are living in a truly extraordinary time. We have all seen changes in the past few weeks that none of us could have predicted and that many of us will find unsettling and difficult. That anxiety may be heightened for those of who work in the NHS, and who know what a vital role we have to play in keeping our patients safe in the period ahead.”

The pace of the Nightingale project is phenomenal and includes not only Barts Health, but the Army, architects, engineers, tradesmen – thousands of people, all working together to build Bart’s sixth hospital from scratch in a week. For Block, the project needs us to balance the speed of provisioning a large IT infrastructure with the requirements and nuances of an NHS digital hospital that will be operating 24/7, whilst ensuring it can be supported effectively afterwards. There are many, many interdependencies in a project like this, navigating those complexities in just 7 days has been extremely challenging.

On completion of the project we will likely have installed around 1000 switches, 500 wireless access points, 10,000 devices, 1000 phones and provided access for all Barts clinical systems. We are also working with our partner company, Connect IP, to install 5000 copper outlets into the ICU beds and supporting infrastructure.

Block has worked exceptionally hard to help our ICT teams get the critical IT infrastructure up and running at NHS Nightingale London. The sheer will, determination and knowledge of each team member has been outstanding. We fully realise we would not have been able to do this on our own without each of the people you have dedicated to our deployment. We still have a huge amount of work to do, and we will complete all of it with partners like Block by our side. We really appreciate the way our two teams have jointly solved problems and gone the extra distance knowing that patients and clinical staff depend on the systems we build for them.” Charles Gutteridge, Chief Clinical Information Officer, Barts Health NHS Trust.

I’m honoured to be able to support our National Health Service in this way. The sense of togetherness throughout this project has been unlike anything I’ve experienced. The strength and courage of these people, putting their own lives on the line to save others is something to marvel. The collective effort that has gone into making this happen in such a short space of time has been immense. I’m reminded of why I chose for Block to focus in healthcare, which was to make a difference to people’s lives through technology. It is humbling to be doing just that.” Marc Chang, CEO at Block.

This has and continues to be an enormous effort. We are in conversation with several Trusts, providing free guidance and support, and if anyone is starting to plan a network for a Nightingale style hospital and needs any help or advice, we have produced design guidelines which include all the lessons we have learned over the past 7 days working with our partners Cisco and Barts Health NHS Trust. We’re happy to share for free, it will save you time. Just email covidresponse@block.co.uk

Block and London Nightingale