Author Bio ▼

IFSEC Insider, formerly IFSEC Global, is the leading online community and news platform for security and fire safety professionals.
April 24, 2020


State of Physical Access Trend Report 2024

Case study

Delivering security at NHS Nightingale

As an integral part of the enormous collaborative efforts of the construction and security of NHS Nightingale at London’s ExCeL Arena, Wilson James, one of the winners at the 2019 Security & Fire Excellence Awards, explains its role in the process and how it has used its security and logistics expertise to support the project. We also hear from others involved in the hospital’s security measures, with a number of security companies partnering up to deliver the requirements necessary.

We are living through an extraordinary period in our history – something that is exemplified in the creation of NHS Nightingale, which is set to hold as many as 4,000 patients across 80 wards. Arguably the UK’s most ambitious medical project, it is now one of the world’s largest critical care units for treating patients with coronavirus.

Answering the call

When Prince Charles opened the facility on 3rd April, it marked the culmination of a project that was only started less than two weeks previously. During this time the construction industry joined forces with the military and NHS to achieve something that Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, described as ‘testament to the work and the brilliance of the many people involved’.


Wilson James was involved from the very early stages to support logistics and security at NHS Nightingale. Jason West, Wilson James’ Head of Logistics and Integration for NHS Nightingale, explains: “The NHS needed security and construction logistics functions to be implemented and we were ready, willing and able to respond. We used expertise from all areas of our business to coordinate with the military and other private sector contractor companies to support the NHS. The whole really was greater than the sum of its parts and the level of cooperation and collaboration demonstrated across the board was incredible to witness.”

Logistical planning at NHS Nightingale

Wilson James was initially tasked with coordinating the construction logistics aspect of the operation but was soon asked to support the NHS supply chain as well. This meant making sure that items including drugs and medicines, medical equipment, beds and hazardous waste bags were met on delivery and then categorised, audited, inventoried, stored and delivered. This required coordination with both civilian colleagues and the Royal Army Medical Corps.

Asked to describe the process, Jason West replies: “Initially, we were able to consolidate the construction materials at ExCeL, however, we were subsequently informed that the NHS would need the designated area for other purposes. We therefore relocated the construction materials to our nearby London Construction Consolidation Centre (LCCC) and replaced them with 25 lorries’ worth of medical equipment.

“Working alongside 84 Medical Supply Squadron, we configured a process whereby every 30 minutes a delivery was received via separate east and west entrances and offloaded. Our logistics people had to adapt, learn and understand the difference between construction materials and medical product at pace and scale. They then had to identify what had arrived and what hadn’t, categorise construction materials accordingly and send them to the LCCC.”

READ: Can thermal imaging technology be used to combat the spread of the coronavirus?

To further streamline the process, drive efficiency and meet ongoing demand, a 20,000ft2 marquee was erected to hold two hours’ worth of stock that could be replenished on an on-going basis. Fully lit and designed to house medical consumables in a dry and safe environment, it also allowed operatives to build items such as flat-packed beds on-site, which could then be delivered along ExCeL’s central thoroughfare. This meant logistical delays were avoided and everyone knew what items were on-site and that they were securely located.

To create the on-site oxygen ring main to support the ventilators, liquid oxygen tanks and other compressor equipment had to be transported from all over the country and Wilson James was responsible for its safe dispatch and arrival.

Organising parking facilities

At the same time Wilson James was developing and implementing this complex logistics strategy, on the evening of Sunday 29th March it was also presented with the challenge of creating and operating a temporary off-site car park. Initially this was to accommodate 1,000 cars but has now been extended to 2,000.

Jason West takes up the story and says: “When we were asked to do this our first response was where are we going to put it? We then identified a suitable piece of land adjacent to ExCeL that would be suitable, and contacted the developer, Lendlease, which informed us that it was actually owned by the Greater London Authority (GLA). After many phone calls, by 11.00pm that night we received authorisation from the GLA to go ahead.

“We then contacted Keltbray which, along with Lendlease and members of the Royal Engineers, arrived on-site at 7.00am the next day to begin work on turning it into a car park, while we made sure items including construction materials, cones, welfare facilities for staff, lighting and barriers were available. It was simply awesome to be able to do this and the guys on the ground even wrote “Thank You NHS” on the roadway.’

We’re in this together

WilsonJames-NHSNightingaleSecurity-20Managing the security of a dynamic and complex site requires a high level of strategic implementation. By drawing on its experience with projects such as the 2014 Commonwealth Games, Wilson James was able to configure a workable and effective system that kept people and assets safe, as well as a ‘chain of custody’ to protect equipment. At the same it made sure that workers were able to access the areas they needed to be in without hindrance or delay.

Security across the site was divided between Wilson James, which focused on internal and secure logistics, while G4S took care of the perimeter. Normally business rivals, the cooperation and mutual support shown by the two organisations illustrated the collaborative spirit evident throughout this project.

For Lee Evans, Wilson James’ Security Lead for NHS Nightingale, this was one of the most striking aspects of the experience and he states: “All over the site boundaries were broken between competitors and it takes something very special to make that happen. This was a tough project with long antisocial hours and little preparation or planning time. Despite that, it has been very rewarding and there were no serious injuries, incidents or accidents. For me personally, configuring the security for NHS Nightingale’s opening ceremony, along with our security partners and the Metropolitan Police, was particularly special.”

In addition, manufacturer of road blockers, bollards and vehicle barriers, ATG Access, has also committed resources to protect hospitals such as NHS Nightingale from further security threats. Through its partnership with deployment partner, event protection business Crowdguard, ATG’s hostile vehicle mitigation (HVM) solution, Surface Guard, has been installed to protect the temporary 500-bed hospital.

When it was noted that vehicle attacks may not be protected against sufficiently, Crowdguard installed 40m of Surface Guard across three location on-site in under 36 hours, while a separate Authorised Vehicle Access Unit has been deployed in the front of the hospital.

Iain Moran, Director at ATG Access, said: “Now, as ever, the public’s safety remains top priority and, to this end, we wanted to ensure that people don’t have to worry about security during these difficult times.

“We have a long-standing relationship with the ExCel Centre, having worked to protect the venue across a number of high-profile events in the past, so we knew what security measures would be needed for the temporary hospital. Due to Crowdguard’s expertise and unparalleled deployment network, we were able to work together to implement the necessary solutions rapidly and effectively, keeping key workers and critical infrastructure safe in these challenging times.”

Life savers

As the UK combats the spread of coronavirus, those who have worked so hard, while selflessly compromising their own safety, to create NHS Nightingale will hope that as few people as possible pass through its doors.

Keith Winterflood, Wilson James’ Director of Operations at NHS Nightingale, concludes: “This project just shows how the various elements of the construction sector can come together as one, from design to mechanical and electrical (M&E), when there’s such an important goal to achieve. Everyone has dealt with the immense pressure in a positive way, employing a heads down and “let’s go for it” attitude. We’ve all been pushed to the extreme but when the coronavirus pandemic is over, and it will be over at some point, the memory of what was achieved with NHS Nightingale will live on.”

When it was noted that vehicle attacks may not be protected against sufficiently, Crowdguard installed 40m of Surface Guard across three location on-site in under 36 hours, while a separate Authorised Vehicle Access Unit has been deployed in the front of the hospital.

How does ExCeL’s security operation usually run?

The construction of NHS Nightingale at the ExCeL centre has been an extraordinary effort from all involved, and IFSEC Global would like to applaud the work of companies such as Wilson James, G4S, and PLP Fire Protection for their hard work. We’d also like to ‘raise our glass’ to all the healthcare professionals – from the frontline doctors and nurses, through to the admin staff who organise the entire process – in the NHS at this incredibly challenging time.

It’s certainly a change in the usual routines for everyone, including the ExCeL’s security team. But, how does the venue usually ensure its facilities are safe and secure? Take a watch of the video below to find out more.

Free Download: The Video Surveillance Report 2023

Discover the latest developments in the rapidly-evolving video surveillance sector by downloading the 2023 Video Surveillance Report. Over 500 responses to our survey, which come from integrators to consultants and heads of security, inform our analysis of the latest trends including AI, the state of the video surveillance market, uptake of the cloud, and the wider economic and geopolitical events impacting the sector!

Download for FREE to discover top industry insight around the latest innovations in video surveillance systems.


Related Topics

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments