A MAJOR manufacturer in Bury has been laying firm foundations for the new wave of Nightingale hospitals - established to treat thousands of coronavirus patients.

Bosses and workers at James Halstead, as part of their Polyflor arm, have cornered the market in specialist vinyl flooring for medical settings.

And the operator has been signed up by the Department of Health to provide their expertise for the temporary hospital facilities being created at London's Excel Centre, Manchester Central (the former GMEX), Birmingham NEC and Scottish national exhibition centre.

Gordon Oliver, the firm's finance director, told the Bury Times that the company had also received a major order to supply similar provisions to a hospital in Milan, which has suffered one of the worst Covid-19 reactions in Europe.

He added: "We are able provide a type of vinyl flooring which can be installed quickly and efficiently and can be cleaned and disinfected as many times as you need, Bury has certainly been doing its bit for the coronavirus crisis response."

The deals have come on the back of a solid six months for James Halstead, with revenues 3.7 per cent up at £130.4million, and operating profits topping £25million, up three per cent.

Mark Halstead, chief executive, said: "In the first half, we have supplied flooring to installations as diverse as the Folies Bergère in Paris and to the Pooch Perfect TV set for Network Seven in Australia and, with profits growth and robust cash balances, it was a satisfying performance.

However, the world has changed since the turn of the year and we are focused on the security of our businesses and the immediate challenges of coronavirus. The focus of our business has moved to our expertise in healthcare as the immediate need in many of our markets for flooring is in this sector."

Mr Oliver confirmed the firm was now preparing for a three-week shutdown over Easter.