PA Consulting coordinating manufacturing of 20,000 ventilators

01 April 2020 3 min. read
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UK origin consultancy PA Consulting has been picked by the British Government to head up a coordinated effort to manufacture ventilators for patients hit by the Covid-19 virus. The move sees a number of Britain’s largest manufacturers looking to produce the vital equipment, which is currently in short supply.

The global Covid-19 pandemic has already seen more than 800,000 cases, and claimed around 40,000 lives since the start of 2020. Beyond the limitations of the world’s previous pandemic prevention measures, the outbreak has also highlighted the deficiencies of the health systems in some of the world’s wealthiest nations – including the US and UK – despite research suggesting they should have been able to cope easily.

While recent research from the highly-regarded Global Health Security Index claimed the UK should have been one of the world’s best positioned countries to cope with Covid-19, mixed messages from the Government and a decade of neglecting the National Health Service have quickly disproven that theory. The NHS in particular was already approaching a breaking-point following 10 years of austerity which had left it underfunded and understaffed.

PA Consulting coordinating manufacturing of 20,000 ventilators

The situation is so dire that health workers are still not being offered testing for coronavirus, while many are having to buy their own face masks or hoods. Most critically of all, with intensive care beds already overflowing, ventilators remain in short supply for those hit by chronic Covid-19 symptoms. As survival of this virulent form of pneumonia for many people hinges upon breathing support, this could well represent a death sentence for many UK residents, if the current rate of infection does not slow.

As the Government scrambles to source the vital life-saving equipment, it has enlisted PA Consulting to oversee a coordinated ventilator production drive by some of the nation’s largest manufacturers. The global consultancy has previously worked on Sir Richard Branson’s high-speed transport project Virgin Hyperloop One, as well as helping the UK Space Agency design a regulator for space travel. PA will work in this capacity alongside High Value Manufacturing Catapult, an entity set up by the government to bridge the gap between British business and its powerful academic sector, to ‘turn ideas into income.’

The manufacturing will see some of the country’s top companies in engineering, the automotive sector and aerospace form a series of consortiums to make components for ventilators in the normal course of business. Among companies looking into rapid production of basic ventilators to help Covid-19 patients, UK supercar-maker McLaren is reportedly forming one consortium to see if ventilators can be produced rapidly and relatively simply. Nissan will lead another while aerospace component specialist Meggitt will lead a third, according to Reuters.

The news comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged manufacturers to make health equipment including ventilators. The Government has since approached carmakers including Jaguar Land Rover, Ford, Honda, PSA-owned Vauxhall, Bentley, Aston Martin and Nissan. The production of ventilators may not be as simple as all that, however. Experts are sceptical about whether automotive companies can help, with Robert Harrison, Professor of Automation Systems at the University of Warwick, telling Reuters that tooling up production lines and training workers to assemble and test the products represents a significant hurdle.