UCL Institute of Healthcare Engineering


UCL welcomes UK Government order for 10,000 breathing aids

31 March 2020

UCL welcomes news that the Government has ordered up to 10,000 breathing aids, developed by engineers at UCL and Formula One and clinicians at UCLH, which will be delivered to hospitals across the country following the outcome of patient evaluations.

The new CPAP breathing device

The announcement, made tonight by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Michael Gove, is a positive step in delivering much-needed breathing aids to the NHS to help tackle Covid-19.

The breathing aid, known as Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP), has been used extensively in hospitals in Italy and China to help Covid-19 patients with serious respiratory problems to breathe more easily, when oxygen via a face mask alone alone is insufficient.

CPAP machines are routinely used by the NHS to support patients in hospital or at home with breathing difficulties. They work by pushing an air-oxygen mix into the mouth and nose at a continuous pressure, keeping airways open and increasing the amount of oxygen entering the blood stream. Invasive ventilators deliver breaths directly into the lungs, but require heavy sedation and connection to a tube placed into the patient’s trachea (windpipe).

Engineers at UCL and Mercedes-AMG HPP, together with clinicians at UCLH, worked round the clock to reverse engineer a CPAP device that could be rapidly manufactured and delivered to NHS hospitals ahead of a predicted surge in hospital admissions.

The device they produced, called UCL-Ventura, gained regulatory approval last week and the Government has now placed an order for up to 10,000.

The team are currently conducting patient evaluations at UCLH and will also soon start these at sister hospitals.

Providing the patient evaluations are successful, the team will start mass production of CPAP devices by the beginning of next week for distribution across the NHS hospital network. The order of up to 10,000 CPAP devices will be fulfilled by 15 April.

Professor Rebecca Shipley, Director of UCL Institute of Healthcare Engineering, said: “This government backing will enable us to rapidly deliver devices providing vital support to the NHS in the weeks and months ahead. We are grateful for the partnerships between engineers, healthcare and industry that have made quick manufacture of these devices possible and are now working hard to deliver the order to hospitals across the country.”

Professor Michael Arthur, UCL President & Provost, said: “The entire UCL community welcomes the news tonight that the UK Government has placed an order for 10,000 CPAP devices for our NHS. We are deeply proud of the incredible UCL team who have produced these life-saving devices at rapid speed together with UCLH and Mercedes-AMG HPP. This breakthrough comes at a critical time for the Covid-19 crisis and demonstrates what amazing things can be achieved when universities, hospitals, industry and international partners join forces for the national good.”

Professor David Lomas (UCL Vice Provost Health) said: “I am delighted that the Government have commissioned our CPAP device for patients with coronavirus. It has the potential to save lives and keep patients off ventilators.  We are currently completing our clinical trials and will then increase production for the NHS.”

Professor Tim Baker (UCL Mechanical Engineering) said: “Together with HPP, we worked all hours of the day to reverse engineer a CPAP device that could be delivered quickly to hospitals. With this order, we move closer to our goal of supporting the NHS response to Covid-19.”



The newly developed CPAP device. Credit: James Tye / UCL

Media contact

Mark Greaves

Tel: +44 (0)20 3108 9485

Email: m.greaves [at] ucl.ac.uk