Senior doctors have warned in a newly uncovered letter that the 250 ventilators the UK government bought from China are the wrong type and could kill patients.
In the letter, the medical staff said the devices had a problematic oxygen supply, could not be cleaned properly, had an unfamiliar design and a confusing instruction manual, and were built for use in ambulances, not hospitals, NBC News reports.
The document also claims the ventilators cannot be cleaned properly, are an unfamiliar design, and come with a confusing instruction manual.
On April 4, Cabinet ministers triumphantly announced that they had scored a much-needed win, buying 300 ventilators from China.
“I’d like to thank the Chinese government for their support in securing that capacity,” Michael Gove, a senior member of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government, said at a briefing that day.
But nine days later, a group of senior doctors and medical managers issued a grave warning about 250 ventilators that they had received, the Shangrila 510 model made by Beijing Aeonmed Co. Ltd., one of China’s major ventilator manufacturers.
“We believe that if used, significant patient harm, including death, is likely,” according to an April 13 letter seen by NBC News. “We look forward to the withdrawal and replacement of these ventilators with devices better able to provide intensive care ventilation for our patients.”
The doctors said the machine had been designed for use inside an ambulance rather than beside a hospital bed, making it the wrong type altogether.
The letter claimed the ventilator’s oxygen supply was “variable and unreliable” and that its fabric case could not be cleaned properly – essential in the struggle to curb a highly infectious virus.
It was also claimed that the ventilators came with a “non-EU” oxygen connection hose.
The letter was reportedly written by a senior anesthesia and intensive care doctor, representing a group of clinicians and senior managers working in and around Birmingham.
Reacting to the letter, the Department of Health and Social Care which oversees the NHS and the purchase of ventilators from abroad, said in an email to NBC News that it was aware of doctors’ concerns and has raised them with the manufacturer.
“Ventilators need to pass robust regulatory tests to ensure they are up to standard before they’re delivered to NHS hospitals,” a spokesperson added.
“We currently have around 10,900 mechanical ventilators available to NHS patients across the UK, as well as 4,300 non-invasive ventilators.”