The Abu Dhabi-based owners of London’s EcCel centre have performed a dramatic U-turn after it was revealed they were charging the NHS between £2-£3 million to use it as a hospital to treat coronavirus patients.
The exhibition centre was converted into the Nightingale Hospital in record time as health workers and the British Army worked together to build the vast complex.
But according to reports in the Sunday Times, the health service was being whacked with a multi-million pound bill for the privelage.
Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company, Adnec, which owns the London-based centre, were charging the NHS up to £3 million a month to use the centre.
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.
“ExCel had everyone over a barrel”
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 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.
The company has since performed a U-Turn, saying they “will not charge a penny” for the use of their facilities.
Humaid Matar Al Dhaheri, managing director and group chief executive of ADNEC, said: “To be clear, profit has always been the furthest thing from our minds.”
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.”