Everyone will be familiar with the demand that the COVID-19 pandemic has put on the NHS and UK hospital resources. Much government discussion and media focus has been around the shortage of ventilators, which are desperately needed for patients being treated for severe symptoms of COVID-19 in Intensive Care Units (ICU). At the start of the pandemic, this was one of the main concerns for our hospitals – whether or not there would be a sufficient supply of ventilators available to treat patients during the peak of the virus.
Less discussion, however, has centred around the demand for kidney dialysis machines, which are equally vital in successfully treating COVID-19 patients in ICUs. Unfortunately, much like the ventilators, there is a country-wide shortage of dialysis machines and the COVID-19 outbreak has led to a significant increase in NHS demand for them. The latest figures from the BBC suggest that over 2,000 patients admitted to intensive care for COVID-19 suffered from kidney failure – highlighting the critical importance of these machines during the pandemic.
In response to this shortage, we have been working with Quanta Dialysis Technologies, who manufacture and supply SC+ dialysis machines for the NHS. In fact, it’s a partnership that has been in place for about 9 years, when work on this innovative product first started. Initially, our role was to support the company through the design and development phases to bring new dialysis technology to launch. At the time, the dialysis machines were primarily designed for use both at home and the clinic.
The outbreak of COVID-19
However, the outbreak of COVID-19 shifted the plans as the launch of the new machine coincided with the onset of the pandemic, when dialysis machines were urgently needed by the NHS to treat hospitalised patients. This meant we were required to immediately increase our consumable production rates, in a bid to meet demand and ensure that the NHS had a sufficient stock of machines for its ICUs.
The manufacturing development of SC+ has been a true partnership. Whilst Quanta owns the machine, designed it and is responsible for the technology, our role has been to manufacture the high-quality consumables required to connect SC+ to the patient. We specialise in manufacturing single-use plastic components for medical devices and Quanta chose to work with us for this reason, as well as for our technical expertise in injection moulding and heat welding and our ability to manufacture highly complex medical devices in accredited clean room settings.
Speeding up the production operation
To accommodate the increased demand from the NHS, we have rapidly sped up our production operation. This has included introducing a dedicated night shift to ensure that enough consumables are manufactured in a timely manner and to meet the supply demand of the NHS. Each part takes approximately one hour to make. All machine components are made to ISO 13485, a Standard that we as a business are certified to.
We expect our production rate to continue to rise as requirements from the NHS remain high until there is a successful COVID-19 vaccine available. Additionally, the NHS will be in a much more comfortable position if it has sufficient stocks and, sadly, it needs to be prepared for the possibility of a second – or even third – wave of the coronavirus.
The first SC+ dialysis machines were distributed to the NHS several weeks ago and the feedback from the ICU teams is that they are remarkably intuitive and easy to use. The machines have already treated many patients successfully in hospitals across the UK and we are proud to be playing our role in the fight against this virus.