Doctors have been given the green light to rely on unlicensed machines to keep coronavirus patients alive in case their stock of ventilators runs out.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) this week issued guidance on how to use anaesthetic delivery machines in place of standard intensive care ventilators for as long as the Covid-19 outbreak lasts.

It warns that the machines may need higher levels of maintenance because of problems such as condensation build-up, requiring parts to be regularly replaced.

It comes as ministers lead a desperate push to secure more ventilators before the peak of coronavirus hospital admissions hits, predicted to take place in seven to 10 days.

The NHS now has 10,000 ventilators available to patients and another 1,500 on order, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said on Wednesday.

However, Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, has said 18,000 will be needed to be sure of having enough.

Designed principally to deliver a fresh flow of anaesthetic agents, most modern anaesthetic machines can also perform the function of a ventilator  essentially, to breathe artificially for a patient while they are unconscious.

However, normal intensive care ventilators are simpler to operate, more robust and are the first choice for the long-term use that many Covid-19 patients are requiring.

The MHRA alert says: “The use of an anaesthetic machine as a (long-term) ventilator in a healthcare setting when it has only received regulatory clearance as an anaesthetic machine is considered off-label use.”

It added that their use “may be essential due to ventilator availability”.

Professor Mike Grocott, the vice president of the Royal College of Anaesthetists, said: “Some hospitals are using anaesthetic machines to ventilate patients already.

“In some cases they are the same as what’s used normally in intensive care. In other cases they are a different type of  machine and they may be less sophisticated but they are still smart machines.”

“There are some technical issues in relation to how they are set up, such as condensation build-up, where there have been problems. As long as staff are aware of it, it’s safe.”

Last weekend, the Government announced that it had accepted 300 ventilators from China to cope with the coronavirus outbreak.

It comes as health officials across the world have been surprised by how large a proportion of Covid-19 patients need artificial ventilation to stay alive.

Source Article