Government answers to allegations on ventilator process, raising more questions

The Financial Times published a piece last Friday taking aim at the process of sourcing more ventilators for the NHS. The author, Peter Foster, also posted a long twitter thread providing a few more details.

The Government answered yesterday with a rebuttal posted on the website. The answer is an exercise in obfuscation that does not clear key doubts related with the purchasing of ventilators, namely the run up to March 16th or the current state of play of the exercise. Having said that I will be looking into some of the answers here.

This is fascinating insight into the process. If there were no illusions, why did the Government follow a pathway that could not (and as not!) provide the NHS immediately with ventilators? The third leg of the stool is not really an appropriate answer here since they could never be approved quickly enough before going into production.

I think this is an interesting point to reflect upon since it puts the spotlight on the timeline pre-March 16th. The question was never that the NHS did not have ventilator capacity in March (or April) but that in accordance with the Governments own estimates it needed a lot more than the capacity available to make sure it could deal with the peak.

It is also a crucial recognition by the Government that ventilator designing and validating *new* ventilator designs takes years effectively meaning that there is no way the new designs could be validated and put in service in due time to deal with the current pandemic.

There is an obvious consequence to this assumption and that is to clear any doubts that the  Dyson contract illegal since it does not solve an immediate need. This answer provides evidence of that fact.

We also know now that as of April 19th there are 10,600 ventilators available to patients in the NHS. The Health Secretary had previously said on April 5th that the NHS had 9-10,000 available then with an objective of 18,000 "over the next couple of weeks". Therefore, this means the total increase of the last two weeks is between 600 and 1,600 and that means the target of 18.000 by today has not been achieved.

Overall, there are a few questions that remain unanswered:

  1. When did the Government decide to source more ventilators, taking over from the NHS England?
  2. Why are the contracts not public?
  3. How many units from the Ventilator Challenge have actually been deployed and are operational to date? How many more are being produced daily/weekly?