Coronavirus: ventilator wins UK approval

The UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency has approved the first newly-adapted ventilator produced as part of a nationwide push to develop essential medical equipment. 

UK-based medical device manufacturer Penlon’s ventilator was approved after extensive final testing in hospitals to ensure it was safe and effective.

The device was produced as part of the Ventilator Challenge UK (VCUK) consortium, which included firms such as Penlon, Airbus, UK-based Formula One teams and Siemens.

Dick Elsy, chair of the VCUK consortium, said the device had undergone “stringent testing” prior to its approval.  

“We will now accelerate the ramp-up of production at the Penlon site in Oxfordshire and the new VCUK production lines we’ve built in Broughton, Dagenham and Woking,” he said. 

Elsy added the consortium was “working closely with supply chain partners to rapidly scale up production” to achieve its target to produce 1,500 units a week. 

Following the device’s approval, the UK government has confirmed an order for 15,000 Penlon devices. Hundreds of units are expected to be built over the next week, with production being further scaled up in the coming weeks. 

Cabinet secretary Michael Gove said the approval of the product showed “significant progress being made” after the government urged firms to help increase production of ventilators in response to the coronavirus outbreak. 

Meanwhile, a UK trade body said the government had ignored small textile suppliers in favour of brand names to develop personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers. 

Kate Hills, founder of Make It British, told The Guardian: “They’re just picking out brand names. The people who can make this PPE are not well-known names, they are contract manufacturers behind the scenes. They’ve filled in the government’s request forms and heard nothing back.”

Hills said a number of small suppliers had been offering their services to produce PPE for the NHS for weeks.

“The number one priority was to secure anything already made they could get on a plane from other countries. We don’t have the capacity and the products ready off the shelf because for years the NHS has been procuring products from cheap overseas suppliers.

“We have to put the supply chain back together from scratch. It’s almost as if there had to be a desperate need before they looked on their own doorstep,” she said. 

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