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Northamptonshire-based Mercedes will provide extra ventilators to the NHS for coronavirus patients

Ventilator Credit: PA

Northamptonshire-based Mercedes has been named as part of a group of manufacturers that will build 10,000 ventilators to help treat patients infected with Covid-19.

It comes after engineers at the base in Brackley helped create a breathing aid that can keep coronavirus patients out of intensive care.

The consortium, that also includes Rolls-Royce, is ready to start producing medical devices under the name Project Oyster and also jointly scaling-up production of an existing design, known as Project Penguin.

It follows an announcement from Dyson that it had received an order from Prime Minister Boris Johnson - who himself has coronavirus - to build 10,000 of its own CoVent design devices.

Ministers have been trying to boost the number of ventilators in recent weeks as they look to increase the stock of just over 8,000 already available to the NHS.

The devices take over the body's breathing function, pushing air into the lungs while a person is seriously ill with Covid-19, giving the patient time to fight the infection and recover.

The Ventilator Challenge UK consortium said it has taken about a week to meet exacting specifications developed by clinicians for a rapidly manufactured ventilator system.

The specification has been overseen by Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which regulates medical devices in the UK.

On Monday, the consortium, which also includes several other UK-based Formula One teams including McLaren and Williams, said it has received a formal order for 10,000 devices and could produce more, if needed.

There is expectation of a "straightforward and very prompt regulatory sign-off" among the consortium, following a final audit, with production understood to be ready to start this week.

The order is made up of Project Oyster, which has involved making slight tweaks to an existing design by Oxfordshire-based firm Penlon, aimed at speeding up the assembly process.

The consortium is also lending its manufacturing muscle to upscaling production of a device called the ParaPac ventilator by Luton-based Smiths Medical, under what is being called Project Penguin.

Among the firms also involved are Ford, GKN Aerospace, High Value Manufacturing Catapult, Inspiration Healthcare, Meggitt, Renishaw, Siemens, Thales, Ultra Electronics and Unilever.

Also part of the group are Formula One teams Haas F1, Red Bull Racing, Racing Point and Renault Sport Racing.

Dick Elsy, leading the consortium, said it brought together firms well used to solving problems, adding "this project is no different".

"They are working together with incredible determination and energy to scale up production of much-needed ventilators and combat a virus that is affecting people in many countries. "I am confident this consortium has the skills and tools to make a difference and save lives."

– Dick Elsy

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