Just 30 of the new coronavirus ventilators trumped by ministers will be ready for the NHS next week, the government admitted today.
Michael Gove last night announced “the first of thousands of new ventilator devices will roll off the production line” this weekend, and “be delivered to the NHS next week.”
However, while tens of thousands of ventilators have been ordered, Mr Gove did not clarify exactly how many would roll off the production line this weekend.
Today the government clarified this number is in the region of 30.
Officials insisted “potentially hundreds” more of the Penlon devices could arrive in the weeks afterwards, with thousands of other ventilators in the coming months.
Separately, thousands of ventilators are also being ordered from overseas. It is not confirmed what the progress of these is, but they were due to arrive in stages over the course of weeks and months.
The number emerged after the number of coronavirus patients admitted to UK hospitals soared past 10,000 for the first time.
Britain is racing to buy in 8,000 “off-the-shelf” ventilators from overseas to add to 8,000 the NHS already has.
On top of this, the government launched a ventilator “challenge” urging UK firms to produce hastily-designed life-saving devices.
The 30 new ventilators to be delivered next week are part of this challenge – and are the first to be produced and approved for use.
They are known as the Penlon ventilator device and have been adapted from existing designs by a consortium of firms, rather than built from scratch.
The consortium’s leaders include Formula 1 teams McLaren and Mercedes, Ford, Siemens and Meggitt.
Aside from this, Dyson also have an agreement to produce 10,000 ventilators for the UK government but they’re yet to be approved by regulators.
And a team led by UCL, working with Mercedes Benz, will produce a further 10,000 new CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) devices to support affected patients.
If all the orders are fulfilled, they could be enough to meet the peak demand in the NHS – leaving no Covid-19 patient without the vital breathing device.
But the government has faced criticism for not acting sooner, given many orders will take months to fulfil.
Robert Jenrick, the Communities Secretary, revealed the figure of 30 ventilators when he was quizzed on ITV’s Good Morning Britain.
He faced claims the UK has not prepared properly to test people for Covid-19 after aiming for 25,000 tests a day, less than Germany’s 500,000 a week.
He said: “Some countries have proved to be more able to get tests – that is partly dependant on the manufacturing base in their own country.
“Different countries have different healthcare manufacturing strengths. I think we will see with ventilators for example some of the strengths of British manufacturing coming through.
“We are taking receipt of the first 30 British-manufactured ventilators this week.”