The Apollo Hotel is set to be transformed into a 125-bed hospital to help ease the burden on the NHS, the Gazette can reveal.

As previously reported, NHS England has been identifying sites around the country to build temporary "Nightingale" hospitals to increase its capacity in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

Last month, the Gazette exclusively revealed Basingstoke was on the list for such a hospital to create support for Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

The county has been one of the worst affected areas in the UK, with the highest number of confirmed cases outside London. To date, 138 people in Hampshire have died and 37 people in the care at Hampshire Hospitals NHS Trust. This figure does not include those who died outside of hospital. 

Today, the Gazette we can reveal the four-star Apollo Hotel on Aldermaston Road has offered up its premises. It is just a stone's throw from Basingstoke hospital, less than a mile by car or foot. 

Sources told this newspaper that training sessions are underway with hotel staff while roomrs are being turned into individual isolation units. 

Meanwhile, recruiters are employing electricians and cleaners to work at the new hospital. It is not yet known what name will be given to it.  

An NHS spokesperson confirmed the news. In a statement, a spokesman said: “The NHS across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight is working with its partners to make sure we are as prepared as possible for any increase in demand for services, and any need to change the way we work as a result of the current Covid-19 national emergency.

“A huge amount of planning and preparation is taking place, seven days a week, to ensure we are as ready as we can be to meet the challenges we are facing. This preparation involves not just securing extra capacity for patients who have Covid-19, but also finding new ways of looking after patients with other conditions and illnesses who will still need care.

“Across the county we are starting to ramp up our response, and this will continue over the coming weeks. People may already have noticed some work underway at a number of sites across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, to ensure that extra capacity is ready when we need it. Final decisions regarding which sites will be used, when, and for which groups of patients are yet to be concluded but we will communicate those details as soon as we are able to do so.”

This news comes after a private hospital in Basingstoke has offered all its beds for use by the NHS during the Covid-19 pandemic.

BMI The Hampshire Clinic, in Basing Road, has agreed a formal partnership with NHS England to support the national effort to tackle the crisis and help increase intensive care beds.

The hospital has 65 beds and four main theatres.

The agreement will provide the NHS with extra capacity for urgent and important treatments that would normally take place in NHS hospitals.

Nationally, it has resulted in the NHS securing all available resources, including existing staff working for the providers, which will see the private hospitals delivering a mix of five main services: inpatient respiratory care to Covid-19 patients; urgent NHS elective care; urgent diagnosis; and inpatient non-elective care, to help free up bed capacity in NHS hospitals.

The NHS will have 7,956 beds from private hospitals, 1,202 ventilators, 680 theatres and nearly 20,000 employed staff, including more than 10,000 nurses and more than 700 doctors.

BMI The Hampshire Clinic has been told to priorities NHS patients from March 23, but can continue to deliver all types of elective care (NHS or private) if capacity remains, up until April 16.

After this, the hospital must only deliver priority urgent elective and urgent cancer treatment.

The agreement will run for 14 weeks from March 23.

Karen Prins, chief executive officer of BMI, said: “Nothing matters more than getting vulnerable patients the treatment they need, and all sectors and industries have agreed to pull together in this national effort. We stand ready to support the NHS in any way we can at this time of national crisis.”

This is a breaking news story and will be updated.