An independent hotel in Blackheath housed dozens of local NHS frontline workers during the peak of the first wave, and has opened its doors to emergency workers ever since.

The general manager of The Clarendon Hotel, Ken Milton, has spoken of the "privilege" he felt after they struck a deal with Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust back in March 2020.

The hotel, found at Montpelier Row, Blackheath, has since housed emergency workers and those in need for nealry 12 months, forming a "very small but vital cog in the wheel."

Back in March last year, Mr Milton said everyone at the hotel, a small independent owned by a local family, were left 'pretty downhearted' at the prospect of following all the major hotel chains in closing their doors due to lockdown.

But a quickly-struck deal with Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust to house their frontline staff urgently in need of accommodation saw plans quickly change.

For the next three months the hotel housed around 60 NHS workers.

Costs were heavily reduced for the NHS staff, at the time facing a barrage of Covid cases and deaths, along with subsidised food and other services provided by the hotel.

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Ken, 58, said it was a perfect match, allowing him to keep hotel, cleaning and kitchen staff employed, as well as offer a safe location for these workers to stay.

Ken, from Greenwich, said seeing them come back "was something else."

"You could see the stress they were under, how tired and worn down they were. Some of them were working very long shifts, coming and going at all times of night and day.

"So it was our job to make sure they were properly fed with healthy food, well rested and clean. We did our best to keep them going whilst they were fighting in hospitals.

"It really was a privilege to be able to be part of that process, a very small cog in the wheel."

Ken said that between March and May, they effectively enabled 4,000 NHS shifts to take place in Greenwich and Lewisham hospitals.

"I quickly learned that one solution didn't suit all, and some people, weren't willing to stay with the NHS staff here.

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"And it was and still is really tough for us financially, like all businesses, but for us, it kept the hotel ticking over, and with a purpose."

Safety measures was a key part of the hotel's offerings, but due to the hotel's early reopening it fell to the staff to work out what to do.

"We basically had to risk access everything, every little component of our jobs," said Ken.

Cleaning procedures and cleaning products changed, food was served solely to bedrooms, and unnecessary items that needed to be cleaned were removed from rooms.

"We were strict with it. No extra visitors were allowed, and we had to constantly keep ourselves from letting safety standards slip, but it worked.

"I also didn't want the hotel to be completely sterile, it still had to feel like hospitality and no one got shouted out.

"And when the official guidance came out in the summer of 2020, we were delighted to find we were already 90% there."

When the three month contract came to an end, the hotel expanded its reach to all kinds of emergency workers needing to live somewhere safe.

These included repair men and the emergency services, as well as families rehoused by insurance companies following a disaster.

"We're getting around 50 people staying a week, and this last week has again been one of our busiest.

"Our mantra has been to accommodate everyone who needs it. We normally have around 200 people though so we haven't been packed, but we have been doing something really important, and it's allowed us to keep the ball running as a business.

"It's not what we expected to happen in 2020, but we've also found new business through it, customers who will hopefully come back in normal times when they can.

"It's been nice for a little independent hotel like ourselves to be able to offer so much.

"When things relaxed in the summer, we came out of the blocks firing, and I believe we will do the same this summer.

Ken added that summer reservations are already coming in fast at the hotel, especially for June and July as the entire country prepares for the potential end of Covid restrictions.