British Doctors Say Ventilators Purchased From China Could Kill Coronavirus Patients

Senior British doctors and medical managers have raised concerns over 250 ventilators the United Kingdom purchased from China.

If these ventilators are used in hospital, the group warns "significant patient harm, including death," according to a letter seen by NBC News.

The ventilators received from China, the Shangrila 510 model, were built by one of the country's major ventilator manufacturers, Beijing Aeonmed Co. Ltd. The manufacturer could not be reached for comment.

The letter detailed serious concerns over the "basic" quality of the ventilators, calling the oxygen supply "variable and unreliable." The doctors said that the machines are also unfamiliar to British doctors and were built for ambulance use, rather than hospital use.

Addressed directly to a senior NHS official, the letter stated: "We look forward to the withdrawal and replacement of these ventilators with devices better able to provide intensive care ventilation for our patients."

The NHS redirected Newsweek to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) for comment. The DHSC said the Shangrila 510 ventilator model is being kept as a reserve and is not currently in use at any hospitals.

"Ventilators need to pass robust regulatory tests to ensure they are up to standard before they're delivered to NHS hospitals," a government spokesperson told Newsweek.

The letter dated April 13 comes nine days after British cabinet ministers celebrated the purchase of equipment.

"I'd like to thank the Chinese government for their support in securing that capacity," said the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lanchester, Michael Gove, during a recent press briefing at the time.

The U.K. is not the only country that has faced problems with medical equipment from China. Both the Netherlands and Finland have reportedly found that masks bought from China had not met the required standard in hospitals. Accuracy of testing kits purchased from Chinese manufacturers for the novel coronavirus were also called into question in Spain and the U.K, according to media reports.

China's power in producing lifesaving equipment has been essential to governments rushing to fill the gaps in their own supply. At a press briefing this past Sunday, Li Xingqian, China's director of the Commerce of Ministry's foreign trade department, said 74 countries and six international organizations had signed 192 contracts for Chinese medical supplies.

On April 15, the Chinese government addressed counterfeit and faulty exports, promising to "mete out punishment with zero tolerance" to companies found exporting such equipment, said Zhao Lijan, a Foreign Ministry spokesman.

Meanwhile, the outbreak is currently improving in the U.K., with spare ventilator capacity in all areas of the country.

NHS worker ambulance London
NHS workers take a patient from an ambulance at St Thomas' Hospital in London on April 10. Justin Setterfield/Getty