Doctors in the UK have shared their fears over 250 ventilators purchased from China and called for their ‘withdrawal and replacement’.
Medical experts from the Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust warned that the Shangrila 510 model, made by Chinese firm Beijing Aeonmed Co. Ltd., caused ‘significant patient harm including death’ if used in a hospital environment.
In a letter seen by NBC News, the senior doctors revealed the breathing machines, which were built for ambulances rather than hospitals, not only had a problematic oxygen supply but could not be cleaned properly.
The five-page document, which was seen by the news organisation on April 13, read: ‘We believe that if used, significant patient harm, including death, is likely.
‘We look forward to the withdrawal and replacement of these ventilators with devices better able to provide intensive care ventilation for our patients.’
The complaints came after a shipment of 300 Chinese ventilators were flown into the UK on April 4 – a development hailed by Michael Gove in one of the Government’s daily virus press briefings and tweeted about by Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.
It is not clear how many were sent by Beijing Aeonmed, whether any other NHS hospitals received shipments of the ventilators or how much was paid for them.
Doctors from the Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust have warned against the Shangrila 510 model ventilator. Pictured: 300 ventilators are seen arriving at MOD Donnington, in Shropshire, from China on April 4
The Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust medics explained that the device made by the Chinese manufacturer provided an oxygen supply which was ‘variable and unreliable’.
Alongside the device having only a ‘basic’ build, the fabric case on the device could not be cleaned properly by staff.
The doctors went on to say that the machines, which also arrived to the UK with a ‘non-E.U.’ oxygen connection hose, were designed for ambulance use rather than for hospitals and left NHS staff having to create makeshift stands for the device out of a hospital trolley.
In addition, the ventilators had an unfamiliar design to doctors in the UK and came with an instruction manual that was confusing.
The document, which was written by a senior anaesthesia and intensive care doctor representing a group of clinicians and senior managers in and around Birmingham, comes as the UK continues to control the spread of the virus which has now claimed the lives of 26,570.
Earlier this month, ministers confirmed that they had purchased and unloaded 300 ventilators from China at the military base MOD Donnington in Shropshire.
Following the arrival of the devices, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Dominic Rabb tweeted: ‘Today we received 300 ventilators purchased from China, for @NHsuk hospitals. Thousands more due in the coming weeks.
‘Large shipment of masks and protective equipment has also arrived, flown from Shanghai by @virgin. Thanks @ukcinchina for helping deliver these life-saving supplies.’
While Michael Gove said during a Downing Street briefing: ‘Today 300 new ventilators arrived from China. I’d like to thank the Chinese government for their support in securing that capacity.’
On April 4, Michael Gove said thanked China for the arrival of 300 new ventilators during a press briefing
While Dominic Raab confirmed the UK had received 300 ventilators purchased from China
However on April 13, doctors at the Birmingham trust issued a warning about the 250 ventilators that they had received.
Beijing AeonMed, which was established in 2001, is a ‘leading domestic R&D and manufacturing enterprise for anaesthesia and respiratory medical equipment’, according to its website.
The company sells a range of medical products including anaesthesia machines, operating lights, operating tables, ceiling pendants, patient monitors, infusion pumps, warming blankets and endoscopes.
A Government spokesperson said: ‘The Shangrila 510 ventilator model is not being used in hospitals and no patients are at risk.
‘Ventilators need to pass robust regulatory tests to ensure they are up to standard before they’re delivered to NHS hospitals.
‘Our absolute priority in this global pandemic is saving lives and we are increasing our provision of ventilators to ensure the NHS continues to have the resources it needs, through procuring more ventilators from overseas, including over 4,000 from China, scaling up the production of existing or modified designs and working to design and manufacture new devices.
‘We currently have around 10,900 mechanical ventilators available to NHS patients across the UK, as well as 4,300 non-invasive ventilators.’
MailOnline has contacted the Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust and NHS England for comment.
Earlier this month Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the country was on track to have ventilators for 18,000 patient
This month, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the country was on track to have ventilators for 18,000 patients – but they may not be in place in time.
He said the estimated total of 11,500 ventilators should be enough because social distancing had helped to slow the spread of the virus and defended the Government’s handling of the outbreak.
Speaking to the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show Mr Hancock said: ‘We need to make sure we have more ventilators than there are people who need ventilation.
‘We have between 9,000 and 10,000 within the NHS, and we have the 2,000 spare that are critical care beds with ventilator capacity.
‘We need 18,000 over the coming two weeks.’