Coronavirus: Ventilator built by Airbus and F1 approved

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About 1,500 Penlon Prima ESO2s a week will be made by May

The first new medical ventilator to treat people with severe symptoms of Covid-19 has been approved in the UK.

Hundreds of the Penlon Prima ESO2, which is an updated version of an existing model, will be made available to intensive care units by next week.

But the consortium of major firms that helped to develop it hopes to make about 1,500 a week by the start of May.

It comes amid concern that tens of thousands of ventilators ordered by the government are still awaiting approval.

The government has previously said it needs to increase ventilator stocks from 10,000 to 18,000 to cope with the pandemic, but some doubt it can be done fast enough.

On Thursday, following the approval by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the government said it had confirmed an order for 15,000 of the new Penlon devices.

Cabinet Secretary Michael Gove said it showed “the significant progress being made” after big manufacturers were asked to help ramp up production.

Businesses including Airbus, GKN, Ford and a number of Formula 1 teams worked with Penlon, a medical device maker, to adapt its ventilator so that it could be mass-produced at speed.

Under normal circumstances, Penlon would only be able to make 50 to 60 ventilators a week.

In line with updated MHRA rules, the ESO2 can also be switched on and off more easily, allowing liquid to be regularly drained from patients’ lungs – something the sickest Covid-19 patients can require on an hourly basis.

Dick Elsy, chair of the VentilatorChallengeUK consortium which is making the device, said it had undergone “stringent testing and clinical trials for the last two weeks”.

“Ventilators of this type are complex and critical pieces of medical equipment, so ensuring the absolute adherence to regulatory standards and meeting clinical needs were always our priorities,” he said.

The consortium will produce the ESO2 at sites in Broughton, Dagenham, Maidenhead and Woking, as well as at Penlon’s headquarters in Oxfordshire.

It also said it was ramping up production of another existing design, the Smiths Group paraPAC, which is used for less acute patients.

A number of other businesses are also involved in designing new ventilators, including Dyson.

However, government support for one major initiative, BlueSky, was dropped at the weekend, because the design was unsuited to the treatment of Covid-19 patients.