The government is scrambling to piece together a British-made medical ventilator to help treat severe cases of coronavirus in the UK, although businesses warn that it would be unrealistic to require companies to build entirely new models.
Fearing that restrictions on global trade could hamper the import of equipment and components, officials have contacted manufacturers to rush to build new production lines to produce medical devices in the UK.
They are seeking to radically increase the number of ventilators provided by the National Health Service.
Two people familiar with the matter said that during a conference call with the heads of large engineering companies on Monday evening, Prime Minister Boris Johnson called for more than 20,000 fans to be manufactured in two weeks.
Over the weekend, Health Minister Matt Hancock said that the National Health Service has only 5,000 ventilators that can provide oxygen to patients who can't breathe on their own, which would require "many times more."
Officials have written to business leaders separately, setting out the requirements for "rapid manufacturing ventilation systems." This will be deployed in hospitals for people with severe respiratory symptoms.
However, the boss warned that they needed a licensed design before starting the manufacturing process. "We can't make up for it," an executive said.
"We can produce licensed designs, but we can't produce completely new designs," he said. "We have enough capacity to help, but we need certified designs."
With the death toll in the UK rising to at least 71 and a blockade similar to other European countries imminent, the government has urged industry to equip the NHS with more machines to help. Hotlines have been set up for companies that think they can contribute.
During a conference call with more than 60 leading manufacturing companies and organizations on Monday, Mr. Johnson asked if they could change the use of the plant and help increase the production capacity of medical equipment.
The file includes a link to a YouTube video that describes a simple ventilator and published an academic paper in 2010 with a suggested system for rapidly deployable devices.
However, industry insiders have privately expressed doubts about the government's plan, not only because medical devices require approval from regulators, and often take weeks or months, depending on complexity and risk.
An industry consultant said: "We are in a very difficult situation, but this is not something you will encounter in a short time." "You have to build a supply chain, it is not easy."
The Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Authority stated that "to protect health, prompt action may be taken to allow medical devices in the UK to be used without official approval".
The agency added that it is helping the government develop "appropriate specifications for other ventilators."
A government official said: "We are studying how to get these machines to the front line as soon as possible. We are studying how to best ensure that they are under quality control, but without delay."
Several industry executives said that the British racing community could be more helpful than large automakers whose large facilities were not so suitable. An automotive industry executive said, "What makes them think our car manufacturers know how to make ventilators, and that the assembly lines in car factories are even appropriate?"
One source said that one possibility is that companies with medical technology expertise will send technical experts to advise other manufacturers.
Many British car makers have left space on their premises due to declining production, leading to partial closures of some production lines or plants, including Nissan in Sunderland, Honda in Swindon, and Walker in Ellesmere Port Ford engine plant in Schall and Bridged.
A head of a British car factory said: "If the government wants to install the kit, it can definitely find space."
"Our priority now is to meet the needs and issues of the NHS and our customers," the British branch of Breas Medical, a Swedish company that manufactures ventilators in the UK, told the Financial Times.
"We are currently working with the government to support them to help them cope with Covid-19," said Smiths Medical, another UK-based equipment maker.
After a conference call on Monday, a Downing Street spokesman said: "The Prime Minister made it clear that tackling the coronavirus and reducing peak transmission requires national efforts. He asked manufacturers to respond to this urgency by providing skills and expertise, as well as making components themselves. challenge.
"Companies can be involved in any part of the process: design, procurement, assembly, testing and transportation. He has set ambitions for the industry and wants to make as many new ventilators as possible, so we can all serve the most vulnerable and our NHS To help, and NHS employees work around the clock. "
Since publication, this article has been modified to explicitly require industries that produce fans.
News References: https://www.ft.com/content/7ebb238c-67c7-11ea-a3c9-1fe6fedcca75