Prof Hawking's ventilator to help treat coronavirus patients at Royal Papworth Hospital

Stephen Hawking's old ventilator has been donated to the hospital that helped care for him - to help treat patients with coronavirus.

The family of the celebrated physicist - who was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease at the age of just 21 - said they were keen to help the Royal Papworth Hospital in Cambridge because of the support it had given him throughout his life.

Stephen Hawking's family arrive at his funeral in Cambridge in 2018 Credit: ITV News Anglia

Much of the equipment used by Prof Hawking had belonged to the NHS and was returned to the service when he died in March 2018.

But the ventilator was among some of the items he had bought for himself.

Royal Papworth had already more than doubled the size of its critical care unit and acquired extra ventilators to help it cope with the increasing number of coronavirus patients.

But bosses said they were grateful for this latest addition - which had been checked over by hospital engineers and deemed suitable for use.

Staff at Royal Papworth Hospital with Prof Stephen Hawking's ventilator Credit: Royal Papworth Hospital

The coronavirus pandemic has led to an outpouring of love for the NHS and its workers - with fundraising, video tributes and the weekly "clap for carers" showing just what the service means to people.

The Hawking family added their tribute - urging people to take social distancing seriously and avoid putting more stress on the NHS than necessary.

The latest official figures show 12 patients with Covid-19 have died at Royal Papworth. The figure increased by one on the previous 24 hours.

A further 61 people with the disease had died at Addenbrooke's Hospital as of 5pm on Monday April 21 - up 12 on the previous day.