Government to support further development of 11 ventilator designs, but ditches others

Photo shows: the Penlon ventilator
Penlon Ventilator

Having made the call to UK industry in March to help it increase the number of ventilators available to the NHA, the government is to continue to support eleven devices in its Ventilator Challenge.

The Government has already ordered that 15,000 Penlon Prima ESO2 ventilators from the Abingdon-based company, the first newly-adapted device to receive regulatory approval in the Ventilator Challenge, with production set to ramp up in the coming weeks. Smiths paraPAC ventilators, an existing device, are also being manufactured at speed and at scale.

But, following a review by an expert panel of clinicians, including NHS clinicians and the regulator, the MHRA, the Government will be ending support for four devices in the Ventilator Challenge. These include OxVent, which was being developed by a multidisciplinary team of engineers and medics from Kings College London, Oxford University and Smith + Nephew.

Ventilator projects still being supported include CoVent, being made by TTP and Dyson, although it has been reported that Sir James Dyson says his ventilators are no longer required in the UK. In a statement he said: “Dyson people welcomed the government’s challenge and, working round the clock, ​developed an entirely new ventilator in 30 days. Mercifully, they are not ​now required ​in the UK but we don’t regret our contribution to the national effort for one moment. I have some hope that our ventilator may yet help the response in other countries but that requires further time and investigation. Dyson has spent around £20 million on this project to date, I will be funding this and we will not ​be accepting any public money.”

Government efforts to increase ventilator capacity have already seen an additional 2,400 mechanical ventilators made available to the NHS since the start of the pandemic.

The UK now has 10,900 mechanical invasive ventilators available to the NHS, as well as 4,300 non-invasive devices.

The Government will continue to increase capacity through buying ventilators from overseas, scaling up the production of existing or modified designs and working to design and manufacture new devices.

Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove said: “The innovation, teamwork and commitment shown by manufacturers involved in the Ventilator Challenge has been inspirational.

“While the Government will be ending support for four of the devices in the Ventilator Challenge today, I want to put on record my sincere thanks to everyone involved.

“They are heroes of our national effort and their contribution to protecting our NHS and saving lives will not be forgotten.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “Since we launched the Ventilator Challenge the ingenuity and innovation shown by so many companies has been truly awe-inspiring and has helped us continue to get ventilators to the frontline and keep capacity ahead of demand.”