Publish date: 12 May 2020

Breathing aids developed by engineers at UCL, UCLH and Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains have been delivered to 40 NHS hospitals across the country.

The UCL-Ventura breathing aid, a low-flow Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) device, is being deployed to treat Covid-19 patients in places including London, Belfast, Glasgow, Blackburn, Manchester, Norwich, Northampton and Birmingham.


CPAP devices were used extensively in China and Italy to help Covid-19 patients breathe more easily, but the devices were in short supply in UK hospitals, so engineers at UCL and Mercedes-AMG HPP worked round-the-clock to reverse engineer a device that could be manufactured rapidly by the thousands.

The Mark I CPAP flow device was produced within a rapid timeframe using the development facilities at Mercedes-AMG HPP – it took fewer than 100 hours from the initial meeting to production of the first device. Mark II of the flow device, now being used in NHS hospitals, is much more efficient in terms of oxygen use than the first model, using up to 70% less.

The UCL-Ventura underwent patient evaluations at UCLH and are now being delivered to hospitals in line with demand. NHS staff can request the devices for their hospitals at no cost to assist management of patients during possible future surges.

250 volunteers from G-TEM, an automotive manufacturing company, are procuring and assembling the patient kits that accompany the Mercedes-AMG HPP produced CPAP flow device at a facility in Brockworth, Gloucestershire, and hand-delivering the kits and CPAP devices to hospitals. More than 1,000 units have been delivered so far.

UCLH chief executive Marcel Levi said: “This is another example of teamwork as the NHS, universities and industry come together to provide creative solutions that can be applied immediately. UCLH is very proud to work with UCL and HPP to bring a major healthcare innovation to patients worldwide.”

Professor Bryan Williams, Director of the Biomedical Research Centre at UCLH, said: “In my view, the application of CPAP to aid breathing through devices like this has been a game-changer and has saved more lives than anything else during the Covid19 outbreak in the UK. It has also unburdened our ventilator requirement, enabling the NHS to cope more effectively, and has allowed many patients to recover without needing ventilation.”

UCLH critical care consultant Professor Mervyn Singer (UCL Medicine) said: “We have seen the UCL-Ventura help hundreds of patients with Covid-19 breathe more easily. Deployed across the NHS hospital network, this device will help to save lives by ensuring that ventilators, a precious resource, are used only for the most severely ill.

“We and others are finding that a significant proportion of patients treated with CPAP can avoid mechanical ventilation and recover more quickly as a result.

“The latest version of the device is much more oxygen efficient – in most patients, it requires little more oxygen than a ventilator. This is important, given there were concerns over oxygen supplies in some hospitals treating Covid-19 patients.” 

After a Government order for up to 10,000, the CPAP devices were manufactured at the HPP technology centre in Brixworth, Northamptonshire. Forty machines that would normally produce F1 pistons and turbochargers were used for production of the CPAP devices, and the entire Brixworth facility was repurposed to meet this demand.