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ExCel centre's oligarch owners U-turn on plans to charge NHS millions for new field hospital

THE ExCel centre’s wealthy owners U-turned on its plans to charge the NHS millions to turn the exhibition space into a 4,000-bed field hospital.

The Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company (Adnec) had been reported to be charging £2 million to £3 million a month for use of the centre during the coronavirus crisis.

Adnec boss Humaid Matar Al Dhaheri said the deal with the health service had included some contributions to costs, but “we have since decided to cover the fixed costs ourselves.”

Owners of the Birmingham National Exhibition Centre, which is being converted into a Nightingale Hospital for coronavirus victims in the Midlands, are providing it free of charge.

The centre is owned by the US private equity giant Blackstone.

General union GMB’s Lola McEvoy said it was “simply wrong that the government could funnel cash to crown princes to deal with an urgent public health crisis while the future of low-paid outsourced workers hangs in the balance.”

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said the deal was “an absolute outrage.”

He said: “Staff and patients will be disgusted at the billionaire owners. They should be prepared to offer the facilities for free.”

The ExCel Nightingale Hospital, which opened on Friday with appearances from recently infected and immediately recovered health secretary Matt Hancock and Prince Charles, took just nine days to create and is the first of five such hospitals planned in Britain.

When operating at its 4,000-bed capacity it will be one of the biggest hospitals in Europe.

Private-sector hospitals across the country are also charging the NHS to “rent” beds during the crisis.

Other European countries hit by the crisis are simply requisitioning them.

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