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Coronavirus: 175 ventilators ordered for Northern Ireland

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General views showing the new Northern Ireland Nightingale Hospital wards designed to treat coronavirus sufferers at Belfast City Hospital on April 7th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

General views showing the new Northern Ireland Nightingale Hospital wards designed to treat coronavirus sufferers at Belfast City Hospital on April 7th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

General views showing the new Northern Ireland Nightingale Hospital wards designed to treat coronavirus sufferers at Belfast City Hospital on April 7th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Health officials in Northern Ireland have ordered 175 non-invasive ventilators to help treat coronavirus patients in respiratory failure.

The ventilators include continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) devices, which help coronavirus patients with lung infections to breathe more easily.

However, the Department of Health has said it cannot provide a date when the devices will be available for use.

Unlike ventilators, a patient does not need to be unconscious for CPAP therapy to be used to help them and it does not have to be used in an intensive care unit.

CPAP therapy is traditionally used to help patients suffering from sleep apnoea, but it is also used to help patients with conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), when they are experiencing breathing difficulties.

It works by blowing air at pressure into the back of the throat.

CPAP devices have been used successfully to help Covid-19 patients when they experience breathing difficulties and it is hoped their use will keep patients off ventilators and reduce strain on ICUs.

Concerns have been raised that Northern Ireland does not have a sufficient number of ventilators to treat the growing number of Covid-19 patients experiencing respiratory failure.

Currently there are 165 ventilators in Northern Ireland with a further 190 on order, although there is no delivery date as yet.

The Department of Health has said in addition to the ventilators, it is in the process of procuring 175 non-invasive ventilators, including equipment capable of delivering CPAP therapy.

A spokeswoman continued: "Requirements for respiratory equipment remain under constant review.

"It is expected that these will be received in phased deliveries over the coming weeks, however it is not possible to provide precise delivery times as suppliers respond to unprecedented global demand."

It comes as it emerged that CPAP devices, developed by engineers at Mercedes and University College London, and clinicians at University College London Hospital, have been made freely available to support the global response to Covid-19.

It is the latest development in Formula 1's Project Pitlane effort to help fight coronavirus and took fewer than 100 hours from the initial meeting to production of the first device, which received regulatory approval last week.

An order for up to 10,000 has now been placed by the NHS, although it is not known whether any of these will be delivered to help patients in Northern Ireland.

The Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains technology centre in Brixworth is now building 1,000 devices per day.

Belfast Telegraph