Supplies of life-saving ventilators for seriously ill children have been depleted during the coronavirus crisis, a leading charity has warned.
WellChild, the national charity for sick children, said that around 3,000 families are facing shortages of equipment such as bacterial filters and tubes which need regular replacement.
The consumables used to keep seriously ill children’s ventilators functioning are the same as those used to treat coronavirus patients, meaning families are being forced to use supplies longer than is recommended.
Parents have expressed fears of infection, as well as long-term damage to the child’s health or death.
Tara Parker, WellChild Director of Programmes, said: “The consumables such as bacterial filters and circuits used to keep these children’s ventilators functioning and hygienic are the same as those used to treat people with coronavirus.
“Whilst the needs of the pandemic were unforeseen, the needs of these children have long been known.”
Dawn Lossau, 48, said she is facing a shortage of valves and circuits for the ventilator used by her daughter.
15-year-old Maisie has used a ventilator for the last four years. Its parts are normally changed daily or once a week, but some are now being left up to a fortnight.
Mrs Lossau said: “There’s only so much recycling you can do with medical equipment, it’s sterile for a reason, to protect the people who are using it.
“This is life and death for us and for lots of other families and it’s not just about children, there are adults out there that will be facing the exact same thing.”
The Department of Health and Social Care is monitoring shortages of equipment, as well as securing supplies.
A department spokesman said: “We understand how challenging this period is and we are doing everything we can to support patients, led by clinical advice.
“Covid-19 has caused a significant increase in demand for clinical consumables and has disrupted international supply chains.
“We have put in place a range of measures to address these challenges, including making it easier for clinicians to report shortages and identifying opportunities to open up new supply options and using additional brands.”