To help stop the spread of COVID-19 and to keep caring for the people who need us, health and social care organisations across Surrey Heartlands have worked together to transform Headley Court, a disused military hospital, into an inpatient rehabilitation capacity for all of Surrey. The centre is hosted by Epsom and St Helier University NHS Trust and will be run on a day to day basis by Surrey Downs Health and Care, a joint venture providing integrated joined up care comprising the local GP practices, CSH Surrey, Surrey County Council and the hospital. 

The hospital has been named The NHS Seacole Centre in honour of the pioneering Jamaican born nurse Mary Seacole who helped soldiers recover from the Crimean War. The Centre was officially opened on 4th May by Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, and Chief Nursing Officer for England, Ruth May who both attended ‘virtually’. Pulling the curtains on the new name plate on their behalf were Deputy Director of Nursing at the Trust, Sarah Langfield, and Chair of the Mary Seacole Trust, Trevor Sterling.

Matt Hancock, Health and Social Care Secretary said: “There can be no more fitting tribute to the extraordinary work of Mary Seacole than the compassion and dedication of our health and social care staff working on the frontline of this pandemic today. NHS Seacole will not only offer a vital space for recovery and rehabilitation, but will also free up crucial extra capacity so everybody who needs care can receive it over the coming months. Our NHS remains there for those who need it and we all have a role to play in fighting this virus, by staying home to support our NHS and save lives.”

Working together, a cross-partner team from the local NHS, Surrey County Council and the military, accelerated work to create this new facility with up to 300 beds that will help care for and support patients recovering from COVID-19 and who no longer need care in an acute hospital, or those who have COVID and can no longer cope with their symptoms at home.

Chief Executive of Epsom and St Helier, Daniel Elkeles, said: “Over the past three weeks, this empty facility has been completely transformed – working closely with the army, the county council, and health and social care teams, we have been able to redesign the use of these disused buildings, create new access roads, re-plumb the water system and re-install electricity supplies. This has taken a huge amount of planning and hard work from multiple teams, but we are determined to do everything we can to stop the spread of COVID-19 and to ensure our patients have the very best chance of recovery. On behalf of our patients and staff, I would like to say a huge thank you to Tony Williamson of Angle Properties for allowing us to use this facility and undertake such significant work on the site.”

Chair of the Surrey Heartlands Partnership and Leader of Surrey County Council, Tim Oliver, said: “It is an honour to name this centre after Mary Seacole whose selflessness and pioneering spirit echoes that of the cross-partner team from the NHS, Surrey County Council and the military who have worked successfully to prepare this new hospital.  The collaboration demonstrated through this project, and our wider response to the current situation, has been remarkable.”

“The NHS Seacole Centre at Headley Court belongs to Surrey and provides the reassurance that additional capacity exists. Across the region our nurses, doctors, therapists and other NHS staff are working incredibly hard, together with our partners in social care, emergency services and other key workers to make sure people get the care they need when they need it.”

Ruth May, Chief Nursing Officer for England added: “Mary Seacole made an extraordinary, long-term contribution to community healthcare and so it is fitting that such an important service is honouring her name. It’s also a wonderful testament to so many nurses and healthcare workers from diverse backgrounds and from different countries who make up our NHS – I am extremely proud of their continued dedication to step up these services for patient during the greatest challenge in our history.”