DAUK in the Guardian on COVID-19: UK manufacturers urged to consider switching to making ventilators

Matt Hancock has called on British manufacturers to consider switching parts of their production to the making of medical ventilators needed to treat rising numbers of coronavirus patients. The health secretary said on Sunday the UK had 5,000 ventilators but needed many more times that number. Hancock said “anyone who can” should “turn their engineering minds and production lines to making them … We need to produce more.”

When Marr questioned the usefulness of new ventilators without extra specialist medical staff, Hancock said: “We’ve got the number of doctors that we have, we want to bring people who are recently retired back into service and, for instance, release doctors from some other duties and get them back into the health service.”

Dr Rinesh Parmar, chair of the The Doctors’ Association UK and an intensive care doctor, applauded the health secretary’s remarks on the procurement of extra ventilation equipment and additional beds, but said that without more specialist staff such efforts would be “pointless”.

“This announcement will be welcomed by doctors across the country who have been shouting from the rooftops about the lack of intensive care resources,” he said.

“Whilst NHS hospitals make emergency plans to create ITU [intensive treatment unit] beds and the government purchases more ventilators, the elephant in the room is the lack of highly trained intensive care nurses and doctors. The NHS faces this pandemic on a background of severe understaffing with almost 43,000 nurse and 10,000 doctor vacancies. It is pointless acquiring new ventilators without enough highly trained staff to operate them.”

Parmar added that the purchasing of extra capacity in private hospitals may solve the issue of a lack of physical space in the NHS, but said there were “very few” intensive care beds in private hospitals in the UK. “The systematic under-resourcing of the NHS and exodus of staff that the government has presided over has ultimately left the country with a severe lack of specialist intensive care nurses and doctors,” he said.

Excerpt of article written by Jedidajah Otte read full article in The Guardian