Royal Papworth tests new ventilator for use on two patients simultaneously

Watch a report by ITV News Anglia's Matthew Hudson

Doctors at Royal Papworth Hospital in Cambridge are testing a new kind of ventilator which can be used safely on two patients at the same time.

The device has been developed by engineers at the University of Cambridge and is still at the trial stage.

But it's hoped it could eventually halve the number of ventilators needed during another pandemic.

The ventilator has been developed by engineers at Cambridge University. Credit: Royal Papworth Hospital

Volunteers from the Institute for Manufacturing (IfM) at the University of Cambridge began working on the project after doctors at Royal Papworth raised concerns about the possible need for more ventilators.

We wanted to have the option, in an emergency, to split and isolate the air delivery from one ventilator between two patients. We also needed to have the ability to measure and control the air flow to each patient individually and have confidence that if there was a decline or improvement in breathing in one patient this would have no effect on air delivery to, or monitoring of the other.

Professor Andrew Klein, Anaesthetist

The engineers have now successfully shown it is possible to split the air flow from one ventilator to mechanically support the breathing of two sedated patients with different lung capacity and changing breathing needs.

Although ventilator demand in the UK has reduced, this system could be adapted toprovide emergency support if there is a second wave of the pandemic, or to hospitals in other countries.

Doctors at Royal Papworth are testing the new ventilator which can be used safely on two people at the same time. Credit: Royal Papworth

The team of engineers are making great progress with the device, from the detailed design and fabrication work to preparing regulatory documents, but a wider expertise from colleagues in finance, buildings management, purchasing and safety meant we responded at incredible speed. This project is a small example of a wider national attitude and response of which we should be proud.

Dr Ronan Daley, Institute for Manufacturing engineers, University of Cambridge

The system was designed to use parts that are already available in the UK and are easy to change and replace.

When all the tests on the device have been completed, the specifications will be made freely available for countries across the world to use.