British manufacturers will export excess medical fans after making 14,000 to treat coronavirus patients only to find that most were unnecessary.
Boris Johnson hailed the success of the “fan challenge”, which began in mid-March when he urged the British industry to help produce up to 30,000 devices amid fears that NHS supplies might be overwhelmed.
“Thanks to these efforts, everyone who needed a ventilator had access to one and the National Health Service has the vital machines needed to continue providing life-saving support against this deadly virus,” he said.
Official figures show that occupancy of medical fan beds peaked at 3,301 in April, indicating that demand peaked at less than half of the UK’s pre-pandemic capacity of nearly 9,000.
The prime minister requested 30,000 machines after the first scientific models based on data from China indicated that a large number of patients would be needed to treat patients with Covid-19.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock subsequently revised the target to 18,000. But social withdrawal measures and awareness among doctors that less invasive ventilation methods were preferable meant that the NHS’s capacity was never extended.
The government office said Friday that production on fan designs had stopped and that the top model, produced by the specialist firm Penlon, had received export approval.
Four different devices were approved for production during the effort, increasing the UK supply to 25,000.
The cabinet office said independent tests showed that four other designs could be used, including the CoVent made by Dyson.
Dr Tom Clutton-Brock, director of the medical device testing and evaluation center, which tested the devices, said: “Designing, manufacturing and testing the fans usually takes years. So the progress made in a few months is exceptional.
“After testing all these devices, it is impressive that several new models meet the regulator’s requirements. All these models would have been clinically usable as pandemic ventilators and could have supported a large number of critically ill patients. “