The doctors warned that the ventilators’ oxygen supply was “variable and unreliable” and said the build quality was “basic”. They added that the machines’ fabric cases could not be cleaned properly and that they had a “non-EU” oxygen connection hose.

In addition to these problems, the Shangrila 510 machines, manufactured by Beijing Aeonmed Co. Ltd, were designed for use in ambulances rather than hospitals.

The Department of Health and Social Care, which oversees the purchase of NHS equipment from abroad, did not respond to a request for comment. However, it told NBC News that it was aware of the doctors’ concerns and had raised them with the manufacturer. None of the ventilators are in use.

The Shangrila 510model is thought to cost up to £2,300, meaning a batch of 300 was likely to have cost the taxpayer almost £700,000.

Dr Ron Daniels, a senior ICU doctor in another NHS region covering Birmingham, said his trust had also been sent a small number of the same model.

While he did not see them himself, he is aware of the concerns raised and told The Telegraph: “It’s possible that this was a hasty purchase that prioritised numbers and public perception over and above need.

“It came at a time of unprecedented demand for ICU capacity. If their build quality was sufficient and they had the after-sales care, that would be different. But I understand there was not even an oxygen sensor, which would be absolutely below the acceptable standard.

“The decision making may well have been well meaning, but was ill judged.”

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