News and Events

Coronavirus ventilators

View profile for Malcolm Underhill
  • Posted
  • Author

At the beginning of the Coronavirus Covid 19 pandemic there was a fear that the NHS would be overwhelmed by patients, particularly those requiring ventilators to assist with their breathing. Thankfully, the worst forecasts were not realised, so, in terms of ventilators, the NHS was able to cope with the demand from patients, However, there remains the risk of a second, or even, third wave, as well as local outbreaks, so the demand for ventilators may be revisited.

At the beginning of the pandemic it was understood that the UK had about 8000 ventilators. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the country needed 18,000 ventilators at the anticipated peak of the virus, which was a reduction in his original estimate of 30,000 machines. The call to the private sector resulted in a consortium producing a ventilator by Penlon. The consortium included Airbus, Siemens, Airbus, Rolls-Royce and Formula One racing teams. However, the F1 project was rejected and Dyson, working with JCB, also pulled out.  It was in April 2020 that the government placed a large order with Penlon.

Whilst the offer of businesses to manufacture ventilators was welcomed, there was concern as to whether those businesses not experienced in producing ventilators, would be able to measure up to the standards demanded of the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency.

What is a ventilator?

There are two types of ventilators. One involves the fitting of a face mask over the nose and mouth, without a tube directly to the airway of the patient. The other, a mechanical ventilator, is a machine that helps a patient to breathe by getting oxygen into their lungs and removing carbon dioxide. The mechanical ventilator requires close supervision by trained staff.

Can I make a claim for a ventilator that caused harm?

Injury may arise out of the way in which a ventilator has been used, in which case the claim for compensation is likely to be against the hospital, as they are responsible for the actions of their staff, whether doctors, nurses or other health professionals.

Alternatively, or in addition to a claim against the hospital, there may also be a claim against the manufacturer of the product. Perhaps there is greater risk of harm where ventilators have been designed and manufactured in a short period of time, to respond to the Coronavirus Covid 19 pandemic. The risk arises from the ventilators not being tested to the same standard that would normally occur and be undertaken by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency.

Government Cover the Risk of Harm from Ventilators

Understandably, those manufacturers who responded to the Prime Minister’s call, to design and manufacturer ventilators at short notice, wanted assurance that they will not be held legally responsible for equipment malfunctions. The government listened and proceeded to step in, agreeing that they, the government, will cover the risk of legal action to rapidly manufactured ventilator systems. To be clear, the government are covering the risk of product liability, i.e. the product (ventilator) causing harm to a patient.

Although this is good news for patients and their families, it is unclear as to the level of liability accepted by the government and whether there is a limit to the amount of compensation that the government are prepared to pay in the event of ventilator failure. Hopefully, there will be no need to test the agreement between government and manufacturers, but if there is a disagreement over the terms, it may end up in court, to decide who is responsible for paying compensation to those who have suffered from coronavirus ventilator failure.


IBB Claims personal injury lawyers have considerable experience to help and advise on all types of compensation claims, including those arising from medical equipment failures. We offer a free initial consultation so we can get a clear understanding of your situation and give a realistic assessment on your prospects of bringing a ventilator compensation claim.

For a commitment-free initial advice, call us today on 0333 123 9099. Alternatively, you can email us at or use the contact form on the right to request a call back.

The information contained within our Blog Articles is provided as general information only. It does not constitute legal or professional advice or seek to be an exhaustive statement of the law and should not be relied on or treated as a substitute for specific advice relevant to particular circumstances. For further details, please see our terms of use policy.