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The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in a new and growing demand for ventilators across the world. These life-saving machines are being used to treat patients with more severe Covid-19 symptoms, which can include difficulty breathing.

In response to a predicted shortage of ventilators, the UK government issued a call for business to help make ventilators to supply to the NHS.[1]

The NHS made an initial estimate of 30,000 ventilators to meet demand,[2] before Health Secretary Matt Hancock later revised this figure to 18,000.[3] Estimates made at the start of the Covid-19 outbreak suggested that the NHS had just over 8,000 ventilators available.[4]

Industry responded to the government’s call, with a number of high-profile companies expressing an interest in manufacturing ventilators.

This included a consortium of engineering and manufacturing companies, Ventilator Challenge UK, of which companies such as Rolls Royce, Ford, Microsoft and Airbus, and ventilator manufacturer Penlon, are members.

Ventilator Challenge recently obtained regulatory approval for one of its ventilator models and the government has since confirmed an order for 15,000 devices.[5]

This briefing paper provides an account of ventilator availability and procurement in the UK, a summary of government action, and a discussion of other issues associated with ventilator use.

[1]    Call for businesses to help make NHS ventilators,, updated 30 March 2020

[2]    Coronavirus: Government orders 10,000 ventilators from Dyson, BBC News, 26 March 2020

[3]    Matt Hancock: ‘Outdoor exercise could be banned if people flout rules’, The Andrew Marr Show, BBC, 5 April 2020

[4]    Coronavirus: Government orders 10,000 ventilators from Dyson, BBC News, 26 March 2020

[5]    Regulator approves first Ventilator Challenge device,, 16 April 2020

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