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Coronavirus ventilators: How many ventilators are there in the UK?

Coronavirus has led to 16,060 deaths across the UK so far, with more anticipated in the coming days and weeks. Ventilators are medical devices which can be used to save lives. However, they are in short supply according to authorities across the UK. So how many devices are currently available across the UK?

The government has issued a call to businesses to support the UK amid the COVID-19 outbreak in the production and supply of ventilators and ventilator components.

The government is looking for assistance with:

  • Design/specification
  • Rapid prototyping
  • Contract/product assembly
  • Certification/regulation/testing
  • Logistics
  • Medical training

The British government’s current plan is to have “many times” the current number, with about 20,000 additional machines needed as quickly as possible.

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How many ventilators are there in the UK?

The NHS has 5,900 ventilators, according to the Department of Health and Social Care, but might need more than three times as many in the worst-case scenario for the spread of coronavirus.

Current plans are in place to plug the gap involve designing what the DHSC called a “basic, functional ventilator”.

This medical device can be made cheaply using available components.

Prior to the call, several firms had already received a two-page specification document setting out the requirements, according to industry sources.

In March, Prime Minister Boris Johnson was asked about ventilators.

He was asked about a joke he reportedly made about a “last gasp” attempt to get ventilators and whether that was appropriate.

The PM said was referring to the fact that manufacturers only have a few weeks to build more manufacturers.

The joke referred to a comedic comment made in the London Playbook briefing.

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UK manufacturers such as Vauxhall and Airbus are planning to 3D-print parts for ventilators to treat coronavirus patients, as part of a “wartime” effort to tackle the coronavirus outbreak.

In total more than 60 companies have responded to the government’s call for more machines to help produce 20,000 ventilators in as little as a fortnight.

The plan aims to harness the power of British industry to assemble machines.

Additionally, industries will lend high-level design and 3D-printing capabilities to help companies that already make ventilators to produce more.

Why are ventilators so important to preventing coronavirus deaths?

For critically ill patients suffering from coronavirus, mechanical ventilation might be the difference between life and death.

Ventilators essentially work by assisting or replacing all respiratory functions, pumping oxygen into the blood for vital organs.

This means they work to provide the key support treatment for patients who have reached the serious or critical stage of coronavirus. 

Speaking at the news conference on Tuesday, Michael Gove said more than 8,000 ventilators have now been deployed in NHS hospitals now, but the country needs more.

The UK is buying more from abroad, including from EU nations, and developing new sources of supply at home.

The government is increasing capacity to provide oxygen to patients at earlier stages of the disease, hoping to prevent deterioration.

Currently, in the UK, there are 120,067 cases of coronavirus in the UK, an increase of 5,850 in the past 24 hours.

In total, 16,060 people have died. 

Across the UK, the highest number of cases are in England with 90,629 confirmed patients, while there are 8,187 in Scotland, 7,270 in Wales and 2,645 in Northern Ireland.

In the UK, the highest number of cases are in London and the North West with 21,357 and 13,871 cases respectively, while the South West has the lowest number of confirmed cases at 4,669.

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