The Press and Journal (Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire)

Freeman taken to task over ventilator delivery

- BY TOM PETERKIN AND DAN O’DONOGHUE

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman is facing questions over the supply of ventilator­s to treat critically ill coronaviru­s patients amid calls for them to be delivered as soon as possible.

Ms Freeman told Holyrood’s health committee more than 1,000 ventilator­s had been ordered as part of her plan to “quadruple” Scottish intensive care capacity from 190 beds to between 700 and 800.

When updating MSPs on the committee earlier this month Ms Freeman admitted the delivery of the ventilator­s, which supply struggling patients with oxygen, would be “staggered” with some not arriving until “mid-summer”.

But with the NHS bracing itself for a dramatic rise of cases, Conservati­ve health spokesman Miles Briggs has called on the government to give precise delivery dates.

Mr Briggs will challenge Ms Freeman on the issue when the Scottish Parliament reconvenes for a day before breaking for Easter recess.

“I want to know how many are coming to NHS Scotland and I want the Scottish Government to publish delivery dates,” Mr Briggs said. “I am seeking clarity, because these need to be received by the NHS as soon as possible.

“We know everyone in the world is scrambling to get these, but I would like to know the delivery dates. The health secretary is saying up to the mid-summer which is quite a window. It is vital we get guarantees of their delivery to the NHS as soon as possible. I also think it is vital NHS boards have assurances about when this equipment is arriving.”

The supply of ventilator­s, which are needed to keep the most seriously ill patients alive, has become a pressing issue as the UK fights the virus.

South of the border, UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said it has 8,000 at the moment and another 8,000 are on the way in the “next couple of weeks”.

Ms Freeman told health committee MSPs officials were “constantly” in touch with suppliers to make sure delivery dates are met. Manufactur­ers have also been told to deliver machines as soon as they are ready rather than waiting for the full order.

Ventilator manufactur­ers included Germany-based company Draeger and GE, which is headquarte­red in Finland. There are also believed to be some on order from China.

The Scottish Government declined to give an exact answer when asked how

“These need to be received by the NHS as soon as possible”

many ventilator­s were needed and how many had been ordered, or where they were coming from and where they were being manufactur­ed.

Likewise, the government did not give a precise answer when asked when they were expected to start arriving, although a spokesman said officials were working to bring them to Scotland’s NHS “as soon as humanly possible”.

He said: “We’re well advanced in our work to double our intensive care unit capacity for patients with Covid-19 who require it, and we’re working to extend that beyond 700 ICU beds.”

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