The NHS is being charged up to £3million a month to use the ExCel centre as a 4,000-bed hospital to treat coronavirus patients, it has been reported.
Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company, Adnec, which owns the London-based centre, decided to charge the NHS, reports the Sunday Times.
Their decision contrasts with that taken by Birmingham‘s NEC which is also being transformed into an NHS Nightingale hospital. Its owners, American private equity giant Blackstone, said they would not charge the NHS for using their facility.
The ExCel centre, owned by Ahu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company, is charging the NHS up to £3million a month to use the facility at a time of national crisis
The centre has been converted into an NHS Nightingale hospital to house 4,000 patients
The NHS had reportedly been ‘desperate’ to secure a big venue when it signed for the ExCel centre as London hospitals were being overwhelmed with patients.
‘If you want to do that deal, you haven’t got much time to negotiate,’ said an individual.
A second added: ‘This all had to happen so fast and the ExCel had everyone over a barrel. There will be a moral reckoning over this.’
The centre’s CEO is Jeremy Rees, who formerly ran the Earls Court & Olympia Group.
Its board includes former Conservative defence secretary, Lord King of Bridgwater, and the former Conservative transport minister, Steven Norris, according to filings with Companies House.
The centre made a £31million profit before tax last year, according to its accounts.
It was opened in 2000 and purchased by Adnec eight years later, which is chaired by Mohamed Juma Al Shamisi.
Adnec’s board includes the former Conservative defence secretary Lord King of Bridgwater (left) and former Conservative transport minister Steven Norris (right)
Birmingham’s NEC centre, owned by American private equity giant Blackstone, has been offered to NHS England for free.
The Nightingale hospital was built in nine days to house 4,000 patients and 80 wards, making it one of the largest in the world when working at full capacity.
The NEC in Birmingham has not charged the NHS for using its facility. Its owner’s head of European Private Equity, Lionel Assant, said: ‘Like the rest of the country, we want to help in any way we can during this crisis.
‘This includes putting the entire NEC facility at the disposal of the NHS for as long as it needs it.’
Mr Rees told the Sunday Times that the ExCel would ‘in no way profit from NHS Nightingale’.
He told the publication: ‘As a responsible business, ExCel London is proud to play its part in the national effort to defeat the coronavirus and respond to the largest national emergency the country has faced in a generation.
‘Our focus is solely to give the NHS and its wonderful staff all the support they need to protect people and lives.’
The Excel Centre told the publication that the agreement between NHS England and itself is ‘confidential’ and that it would not comment on rent payments.
An NHS England spokesman said the health service is ‘pulling out all the stops to save as many lives as possible’.
‘We are grateful for all the help we have received including from the public, charities and companies,’ they said.
‘The NHS has responded to (coronavirus) with unprecedented action: Freeing up 33,000 beds, striking a deal with the independent sector to get 8,000 more and working with the military to build the first Nightingale hospital in a matter of days.’
A statement from Mr Rees issued when the ExCel centre was turned into a hospital stated: ‘Our country is facing the largest national emergency for a generation and our thoughts and sympathies are with those who are personally affected by this situation.
‘It is crucial that everyone plays their part in the national effort, working with the government to combat the spread of the coronavirus and save lives.’
Britain recorded its darkest day so far during the pandemic yesterday, registering 708 further deaths, and 3,735 further cases, bringing its total to more than 41,000.
MailOnline has contacted Adnec and Jeremy Rees for comment.