UK looks to ramp up ventilator production for Covid-19

UK looks to ramp up ventilator production for Covid-19

Business news |
By Nick Flaherty

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The UK’s only ventilator manufacturer is ramping up production to meet demand to tackle the Covid-19 Coronavirus crisis as the UK government calls for assistance from the industry.

“We have increased our capacity, and moved to 7 days working across our global manufacturing sites where required to meet demands from our customers,” said Sally Cozens, managing director at Breas UK in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire.  She declined to say that that capacity is, other than “we are increasing to meet demands globally”. Breas is headquartered in Sweden and owned by the Chinese Fosun conglomerate, and has 150 staff worldwide. Breas UK claims to be the only UK ventilator manufacturer, making a range called Nippy, while Breas also makes other medical equipment.

The UK government called on engineering firms to shift to ventilator production to address the Covid-19 outbreak, and has set up a helpline for companies willing to assist. The German government has reportedly ordered 10,000 ventilators from Draegerwerk in Luebeck, while Hamilton Medical in Switzerland has ramped up production by 30% to a run rate of 20,000 a year.

In the UK, automotive component maker Unipart and excavator maker JCB have been contacted about manufacturing, and medical 3D printing firm Open Bionics has also offered its help.

“We build medical devices, have technicians, engineers, processes and assembly lines in place and ready to go. We need parts and build instructions,” said Sam Payne, chief operating officer and co-founder of Open Bionics in Bristol, UK,, which makes 3D-printed prosthetic arms.

Other suggestions of companies with medical equipment skills have included Meditec England, Smiths Medical, SLE, Diamedica, OES Medical and Penlon.

However the issue of medical approvals for new designs and new production line remains.  This would have to come through the UK’s Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). A manufacturer can however apply to supply a medical device that does not comply with the law through an exceptional use of a non-CE marked medical device. The same provision may be made for custom-made devices that have not complied with the standard conformity assessment procedure, which may speed up the process for new designs or new manufacturing lines.  

The BEIS Business Support helpline opened at 10am today on 0300 456 3565, but officials say they have already been inundated with offers of help.

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