More medical ventilators required to tackle Covid-19

The government are calling on British engineering firms to assist in the production of an additional 20,000 medical ventilators as concerns grow about the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Medical ventilators are used to provide critically ill patients with much needed oxygen whilst removing carbon dioxide from the body. They are “relatively complex pieces of equipment” according to Justin Benson, Head of Automation at KMPG and for firms who are used to manufacturing car parts, manufacturing ventilators could take some time.

Downing Street released a statement asking for “businesses to come to us and help in this national effort”. Ford, Honda, Rolls-Royce and JCB are just some of the biggest organisations contacted by the government to ask whether their production lines could be used to build medical equipment.

Ford currently produce vehicle parts in both Bridgend and Dagenham, and have confirmed their support in. JCB are also on board, and have research and engineering teams actively looking into the feasibility of the request.

Lesser known companies have also been contacted by the Cabinet. Renishaw, are a Gloucestershire-based engineering company that produce small precision measurement parts, used in other medical equipment and, TT Electronics, based in Woking specialise in manufacturing speciality coils and ultra-fine wound wire for radiation therapy equipment and surgical navigation devices.

The government are working hard to identify manufacturers that can assist in the production of these much-needed ventilators as soon as possible, however it usually takes up to 3 years to develop and launch a ventilator. Craig Thompson, Marketing Chief at Penlon said that “ventilators are less sophisticated than things like smartphones… There is not a technical challenge but a regulatory and compliance one” and so the government will be working hard to allow these companies to make the equipment “locally under licence”.

The global automotive industry has already been effected profoundly by the coronavirus outbreak, with businesses including FCA, Ferrari and Lamborghini temporarily closing their primary facilities to protect their workers, suppliers and customers. At a time where the NHS’s resources are under heavy strain and economy is uncertain, manufacturing companies able to assist in the production of medical ventilators will offer much needed job security for many at this difficult time.

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