Dyson, Honda and JCB could join coronavirus ventilator push

Dyson, Honda and JCB could join fight to produce thousands of ventilators after coronavirus plea from Boris Johnson – but experts warn they are useless without more NHS staff trained to use them

  • Boris Johnson will host phone call with leading manufacturing companies today
  • Likes of Dyson, Unipart Group, Honda and JCB will be asked to build ventilators
  • NHS only has 5,000 ventilators which are key in the fight against coronavirus
  • But experts warn there must also be enough staff to operate the machines
  • Government being urged to ensure NHS staff have correct protective equipment
  • Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?

Boris Johnson will today urge leading manufacturing companies including JCB and Dyson to help build the ventilators the NHS needs to fight coronavirus. 

Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, revealed yesterday the NHS only has 5,000 of the machines and will need ‘many times more than that’ in the weeks and months ahead. 

Downing Street has issued a ‘call to arms’ to British manufacturers to boost production but experts have warned an increase in artificial respirators will also require an increase in the number of health service staff capable of operating them.

Meanwhile, there are also growing calls for the government to ensure NHS doctors and nurses are all equipped with appropriate protective clothing as they have to deal with growing numbers of coronavirus patients. 

Mr Johnson is expected to host a phonecall with business leaders today to set out his plea for their help in building ventilators. 

Dyson, Unipart Group, JCB and Honda will all reportedly be taking part in the call. Rolls Royce has already said it is ‘keen’ to help in the ventilator effort. 

Boris Johnson will today host a phonecall with business leaders in a bid to secure their help to build more ventilators for the NHS

James Dyson’s company Dyson will reportedly be taking part in the phonecall with the Prime Minister

A Downing Street spokesman said: ‘Preparing for the spread of the coronavirus outbreak is a national priority and we’re calling on the manufacturing industry and all those with relevant expertise who might be able to help to come together to help the country tackle this national crisis.  

‘We need to step up production of vital equipment such as ventilators so tyhat we can all help the most vulnerable, and we need businesses to come and help in this national effort.’ 

The government has now set up a specific business team which will help coordinate the efforts and Mr Hancock said today there had already been an ‘enthusiastic response’ from manufacturers.

One executive told the Financial Times that industry will be ‘very supportive’ of the push but warned it ‘has to be be driven by Downing Street’. 

Another executive said if there were companies already making the machines and they want to switch to 24/7 production other businesses would be willing to ‘lend them people to run the factories’. 

The number of positive tests for coronavirus in the UK hit 1,372 yesterday as the death toll increased to 35.  

Mr Hancock appeared to concede yesterday that the NHS will need to significantly boost the number of staff qualified to use ventilators. 

Responding to suggestions that the health service will not have enough people to operate the machines, he replied ‘we’ve got the number of doctors that we have’. 

But he added: ‘We want to bring people who are recently retired back into service and for instance release doctors from some other duties and get them back into the health service, but also the clinical need that people have when they’re suffering from coronavirus are very specific. 

‘It’s about ventilation, because it’s a respiratory disease. So we will be stopping some other activity and asking doctors who normally do other things to retrain, to be able to, for instance, use the ventilator.’ 

Ron Daniels, an intensive care consultant, told Sky News today that NHS staff must be appropriately protected against the disease so they can continue to help those who are sick. 

He said: ‘We talk about doubling intensive care beds but if an operating theatre is an intensive care bed those ventilators are not robust enough to cope with the most severely ill. 

‘This is about staff. It is about ventilators, but just as importantly, if not more so it is about supply chain for personal protective equipment because health professionals, they are stepping up to the mark, but they are worried.’ 

Mr Hancock said yesterday that ‘it is not possible to produce too many’ ventilators as he promised the government will buy all those which are made.  

Ron Daniels (right), an intensive care consultant, told Sky News NHS staff must be given appropriate protective clothing to protect them from coronavirus

He told Sophy Ridge on Sky News: ‘We start with around 5,000 ventilators, we think we need many times more than that and we are saying if you produce a ventilator then we will buy it. No number is too high.

‘They are relatively complicated pieces of kit, I couldn’t make one, but they’re not so complicated that the advanced manufacturing that this country is so good at now can’t be able to turn its production lines over to.

‘We’ve been talking to a whole host of companies about it and the Prime Minister is hosting a conference call today with them to say very clearly to the nation’s manufacturers ventilators are the thing that we are going to need and frankly right across the world, the demand for them is incredibly high so it is not possible to produce too many.

‘So anybody who can should turn production and their engineering minds over to the production of ventilators.’  

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