Coronavirus: UK 'cancels order for thousands of ventilators because hospitals need more advanced models'

·3-min read
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - APRIL 10: NHS workers in PPE take a patient with an unknown condition from an ambulance at St Thomas' Hospital on April 10, 2020 in London, England. Public Easter events have been cancelled across the country, with the government urging the public to respect lockdown measures by celebrating the holiday in their homes. Over 1.5 million people across the world have been infected with the COVID-19 coronavirus, with over 7,000 fatalities recorded in the United Kingdom.   (Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)
NHS workers wearing PPE outside St Thomas' Hospital in London (Getty Images)

The UK has cancelled an order for thousands of ventilators to treat coronavirus patients, it has been reported.

The government has confirmed it no longer wants the units because the treatment of COVID-19 patients in hospitals is more complex than anticipated.

It comes as half of A&E staff at one hospital have reportedly tested positive for the disease. The UK recorded 710 new coronavirus deaths on Sunday, taking the total number of people who have died in hospital with the virus past 10,000.

Reuters reported that distribution of the ventilator model, known as BlueSky, has been scrapped because more advanced devices are required.

A spokesman for the Cabinet Office, which is co-ordinating ventilator orders, said: “We are no longer supporting the production of the BlueSky device following a reassessment of the product's viability in light of the ever-developing picture around what is needed to most effectively treat COVID-19.”

He added: "We are continuing to work at unprecedented speed with a number of other manufacturers to scale-up UK production of ventilators.”

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The government had called on British industry to provide new models of ventilator that could be produced on a large scale at short notice to aid the NHS.

More than 30,000 ventilators have been ordered from various groups of companies from sectors such as aerospace, engineering and Formula One. Last month, the government ordered 10,000 ventilators from vacuum cleaner manufacturer Dyson.

A source told Reuters that the group involved in the BlueSky project had been working to deliver thousands of ventilators.

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They said the government cancelled the delivery because coronavirus cases in hospitals were more complicated than anticipated.

The source said the government took the decision to cancel the order because there are several projects competing for the same components, which are in limited supply, so have prioritised more sophisticated devices.

However, other types of ventilator are being delivered – the first paraPac ventilators, made by Smiths Group, were delivered to hospitals on Sunday.

Screen grab of Health Secretary Matt Hancock speaking during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (COVID-19). (Photo by PA Video/PA Images via Getty Images)
Health secretary Matt Hancock speaking during a COVID-19 media briefing in Downing Street on Easter Sunday (PA via Getty Images)

Other ventilators are currently being tested, including newly designed devices.

On Sunday, health secretary Matt Hancock said the UK had a “record number of ventilators” at just under 10,000.

He said six more temporary Nightingale hospitals are being built across England, after the first opened in East London.

"This critical expansion is partly because we have a record number of ventilators, 9,775, and partly because we have record numbers of returners coming back and rejoining the NHS,” Hancock said.

"Over 5,000 former staff are now back on the NHS frontline and over 36,000 have come forward to enlist.”

He added: "We are increasing the amount of PPE [personal protective equipment] and I'm glad to say there are now record amounts in the system."

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