Some of Manchester’s most luxurious hotel rooms – those that would normally cost hundreds of pounds a night – are currently forced to dismiss paying guests.
But that doesn’t mean they are sitting empty. Rather.
Some of the city’s most exclusive hotel accommodations are now being offered free of charge to NHS staff and other key workers.
Hotels including Gary Neville Stock Exchange Hotel and the Hilton at Manchester Airport are offering a safe haven for those frontline workers who have arrived in Manchester to help fight Covid-19 or who live far away from loved ones. to protect those at risk.
It is a generous gesture that delighted both the guests and the staff of the hotels in question.
At the stock exchange, the staff left notes of thanks and encouragement for their SSN guests.
Native guests use the hotel’s large spaces to exercise, sprinting through the corridors.
In Trafford, temporary residents of Hotel Football arrive home from long shifts and fall asleep with a view of the Manchester United ground, its lights adjusted to read “NHS United”.
For Dr. Paul Hendrie, a Teesside GP who was brought to Manchester to assist in Covid units, the value of this gesture cannot be underestimated.
He said, “The staff here takes care of us so we can take care of you. Without them we wouldn’t be able to take care of the poor people.”
Paul is a temporary guest of Native, the huge Ducie Street aparthotel near Piccadilly. He left his two beloved labradors – Bob and Dave – as he returns home while working in our city.
He said: “I am here indefinitely. With the blockade easing, the concern is that we will see another increase in numbers.
“I hope things will continue to improve. It would be the best news – if I didn’t need it, it means things will get better. But I don’t know when I will go home. We are not yet at that point.”
An advantage of living in native is that each room is an independent apartment, including a kitchen space.
Paul said, “The apartment is fantastic. I have a nice big comfortable bed, a dining table, there is a kitchen area. There is a washing machine which is obviously essential for washing your scrubs. It is a lifesaver.
“Everyone was fantastic. People were fantastic and incredibly welcoming – when it’s all over, I want to go back to Manchester and give him a big hug!”
Since the start of the blockade, Native has been offering his rooms to those in need. And then came the nightingale news.
The field hospital that took over Manchester Central has seen an influx of medical personnel from all over the country come to help manage it, including Claire Shepherd.
Normally managing director of a design company, but with a background in social work, Claire was brought from her farm in North Yorkshire to oversee the nightingale’s governance and security.
Her studio in Native is now her office and home – doing as much work as possible from her dining room allows her to keep a safe distance from the hospital’s nurses and doctors.
When she returned home, Claire lived in an outbuilding to stay away from her high-risk architect partner, who leaves food at hand.
Six weeks after her stay, she said, “I had no idea where I was going to be – I just got to Manchester. I got in touch with Native and I’ve been here ever since.
“Without Native it would have been impossible to work at the Nightingale. They are allowing me to do this job.
“The hotel houses frontline nurses, doctors, police officers, people who deal with PPE and nightingale equipment. Young people who are far from their families and loved ones.
“I am older, I have older children, I am fine – but when I look at the young people who are separated from their families, I just think they are fantastic – and this applies to the caregivers and staff of the supermarket and the people who drive buses and trains.”
Speaking of the handful of staff who live on site to operate the hotel, he said: “You rarely see staff because of social distances, but they are always at the end of the phone. Whatever we need, they” are at our complete disposal: they are extraordinary.
“These hotels are enabling key workers to provide the care we need.
“Being here really keeps me healthy – I can walk to work, cook my food.”
Although the facilities are not as complete at the Hotel Football, it is a hotel that many tourists are clamoring to visit at least once in their lifetime.
While its guests may not be able to enjoy the action at Old Trafford, they still express enormous gratitude for the accommodation.
Madhavi Gajjar is a United States doctor who has lived in Manchester for six months and spent two weeks at the Hotel Football after a family member showed symptoms of Covid-19.
Even now she has returned home, she is self-insulated, confined to one room in a six-person house.
The nature of her job – she is working on ICU Covid between Wythenshawe and MRI – means that her temporary hotel accommodation has given her great peace of mind, both for her family and for her patients.
He said, “It really helped a lot. Being able to have a place where you can go and still be able to work without having the problem of possibly passing on any kind of infection. That tranquility was fantastic.
“There are people who live there who may have high-risk family members at home. Just have the peace of mind that you can stay there and keep your family and patients safe. It’s a really nice gesture and it’s so appreciated.
“I really have to praise the staff staying at the Hotel Football. They are there day and night and are making so much effort to make sure people are comfortable and don’t feel stuck.
“It was much better than I expected and I made great friends while I was there.
“It’s not just a bed, you’re actually keeping company. And after working in the departments you do, it’s just beautiful, it’s really necessary.”
Another doctor who lacks the hustle and bustle of a usually occupied home is Rachelle Sutton, who normally lives with her “whole family, like Brady Bunch”.
She has been to Native to protect her family at home in Blackpool, and has seen a small form of community within the hotel walls.
He said: “Even though none of us knew each other before, we now have a Whatsapp group and we look at each other, we arrange the chairs in the hotel lobby and have a chat and a takeaway when a couple of us have the strange night out together, so it’s really like a second family that is forming.
“I am extremely close to my family, so I miss them terribly. This is certainly the most difficult for me to be a real domestic bird, but thank goodness for the video calls that are daily at home.
“Sometimes I miss the personal touch of my things around me. I’m a Disney unicorn and sparkling girl-like things, so my room here seems a little empty to go home but in general I’m trying to focus on the real own positives of an unusual situation affecting many people across the country. We are all together.
“I am very fortunate that my experience has been helped by meeting so lovely colleagues at the Nightingale and the natives who have been of great help in such a difficult time for the nation.
“We hope to support the national health service away from our families so that our patients can return home very soon. Thank you for staying at home and taking social distances.
“Be aware and kind to each other. Keep on washing those hands as if they were going out of fashion and we hope that soon we will all be back together with our families.”
Jacqui Griffiths is the general manager of Native, which has a capacity of just over 50% despite being closed to the public.
He said: “For us, what is truly humiliating is that these poor people are working at full speed and seeing all kinds of horrors, yet they come to the desk and leave flowers and chocolates for the hotel staff.
“We are a little surprised that they have the ability to think of someone else too!
“One advantage we have is that our rooms are self-sufficient. As much as it may not be a home away from home in this crazy moment, at least it allows them to be able to close the door and act normally and do things for themselves.
“We feel incredibly privileged. The team on site absolutely wanted to be there and be part of it.
“Everyone is full of admiration and respect for the hospital staff and you want to do your small part – this allows us to return something small to their immense efforts.”