During these unprecedented times, we have all had to adapt and this includes our NHS heroes who have been faced with treating thousands of patients with this new strain of coronavirus, Covid19. Putting themselves at risk every day, NHS and other key workers have found themselves without the right equipment to ensure they can help people in their care safely. One big concern in the early weeks of the outbreak was whether the NHS would have enough ventilators for those unable to breathe unaided. With many companies stepping forward to help the government to produce much needed ventilators, one team of clinicians at Warrington Hospital felt they could not wait the weeks they would take to manufacture and came up with their own solution. Watching how other countries like Italy had been dealing with the virus, the team learned from their experiences and set to work.
The medical team made an early decision to try to avoid ventilation, which has a relatively poor recovery rate. They realised that they could turn their simple “black boxes” that they used to treat apnoea, into CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machines through a simple adaptation. The “black boxes”, which are built on the same premise as a CPAP machine, were modified by fitting them with superior masks and linking them up to oxygen.
The machines pump oxygen, under a constant pressure, into the lungs through a close-fitted face mask. Medics at the hospital told Sky News that by treating COVID-19 patients early with this breathing aid, there was less need to use the more intrusive ventilators, which require a pipe to be inserted down the throat. The adapted machines were tested on staff first and when rolled out to patients with Covid19, they found they stabilised quickly and many avoided the need for ventilation, if treated on arrival in the intensive care ward.
Dr Murthy (Head of the hospital’s Respiratory Department) said that he believed the adaption of the simple device had probably been responsible for changing the lives and the medical outcome for hundreds of COVID-19 patients who’d passed through Warrington Hospital.