Coronavirus: Museum piece designed in Pagham is re-engineered by Mercedes F1 to help save lives

A breathing device first designed and produced in Pagham nearly 30 years ago has been re-engineered to help save lives during the coronavirus pandemic.

Friday, 17th April 2020, 9:45 am
Updated Friday, 17th April 2020, 9:46 am
The system was developed in the early 1990s by a team led by the firms head of engineering John Denyer (pictured) and was sold in a number of countries around the world

A professor from University College London (UCL) remembered the Whisperflow CPAP device and found it in the hospital museum when the college was called on by the government to look at the supply of ventilation equipment to deal with the outbreak.

Work quickly began and UK-based Formula 1 teams have now contributed to the supply of more than 10,000 orders from the NHS for devices to treat Covid-19 patients. When an oxygen mask alone is insufficient, the device helps patients with lung infections breathe easier.

The original lung ventilation device was designed, developed and sold by Medic-Aid Ltd in Pagham — founded in 1977 by David House who led the company for its first 18 years.

The original lung ventilation device,called the Whisperflow CPAP system, was designed, developed and sold by Medic-Aid Ltd in Pagham founded in 1977 by David House (pictured)

The system was developed in the early 1990’s by a team led by the firm’s head of engineering John Denyer and was sold in a number of countries around the world.

“Professor Mervyn Singer knew about this CPAP device, called a Whisperflow,” Mr House explained. “He went down to the hospital museum and dug one out.

“He phoned Mercedes Formula 1 who came in immediately and did a reverse engineering job on it within a week.

“The NHS ordered 10,000 of them and they are being supplied to all these intensive care units in hospitals across the country.

“My company designed, manufactured and started selling it in 1992. It was on the market for some time but the company got sold and the machine went to other people. It continued to be manufactured by Philips Respironics in Tangmere.”

Mr House said that when Prime Minister Boris Johnson asked that a new range of ventilators be rolled out quickly, University of College London realised it would involve time-consuming tests.

He added: “If you come up with a new ventilator, it’s got to be tested before you’re allowed to use it as it could be dangerous.

“We needed to find something that worked well and re-engineer it. You don’t have to go back and get new approvals on it because it’s an existing, well-documented and well-proven product.

“They made 100 of them and tested them at UCL and five other hospitals. That was all signed off last week. Now they are making 10,000 and starting to be delivered to general hospitals as of Monday.”

According to the BBC, UCL hospital consultant Professor Singer said these devices help save lives ‘by ensuring ventilators are used only for the most severely ill’.

David House is now developing a new type of face mask, the Flowzone Mask, which aims to ‘overcome the two major problems’ with existing mask designs — the difficulty in achieving and maintaining a seal around the face and making it comfortable enough to wear for long periods of time.

“Everyone is talking about masks right now,” he said. “I have been working on a new mask for the last two years.

“We’ve found a way of making them far more comfortable to use by putting a seal all the way around the mask.

“Patent applications have been submitted in a number of countries but it’s not on the market yet.”

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