Here at the Charity, we are raising funds to buy new equipment for Royal Brompton and Harefield hospitals. The hospitals are still treating Covid-19 patients and we aim to provide the machines our brave NHS colleagues need to treat them. However, we are also looking to the future by making sure that any equipment we buy can be used to treat non-Covid patients after the pandemic.

To better understand the impact of the equipment we buy on patients, we sat down with Peter Doyle, Lead Nurse and Associate General Manager at Harefield Hospital, to ask him how he and his colleagues will use the devices we are raising funds for via our Covid-19 Relief Fund


One piece of equipment we are fundraising for is new ECMO machines for adult patients. ECMO stands for extracorporeal membrane oxygenation and it allows the patient’s lungs or heart time to recover when they are seriously ill. Peter explained that there are two types of ECMO, VV ECMO and VA ECMO.

“For VV ECMO, the blood is taken out of the circulation, and directed through an oxygenator that does the job of the lungs,” Peter said. “The idea is to rest the lungs and give them an opportunity to recover.”

VV ECMO is used to treat the sickest Covid-19 patients, but it is also used for patients with acute lung failure due to other conditions. The new ECMO machines will help treat any critically ill Covid-19 patients in the care of our hospitals, but they will also help patients with other severe cardiorespiratory conditions. One such group of patients are those with acute respiratory failure due to flu. "Flu is one of the main drivers for the increase in VV ECMO during the winter months and we are expecting to see a high level of flu related critical care activity in the months ahead," Peter said. Even after the Covid-19 pandemic, our hospitals will be able to use the new ECMO machines to treat patients with flu and other life-threatening respiratory diseases.

The machines are also used for VA ECMO, which is aimed at giving the patient’s heart a chance to rest. This type of ECMO is used for patients with end stage heart failure, which is no longer responding to other treatments. This might include patients who have had multiple heart attacks or patients who need a heart transplant.

Royal Brompton is a national centre for ECMO and the hospitals take ECMO referrals for a range of patients with critical lung and heart conditions from all over the country. During the peak of the pandemic many desperately ill Covid-19 patients were sent for ECMO treatment at our two hospitals. New ECMO machines will help our NHS colleagues to treat many desperately ill patients in the future.

Ventilator humidifiers

Another piece of equipment we are fundraising for is to purchase 20 humidifiers. "Humidifiers are used for many types of ventilatory support," Peter said. He explained that they add moisture and warmth to the gas, which is being supplied by a ventilator or other respiratory device. This helps patients to breathe and prevents their mouth, nose and airways from drying out.

Ventilators are important in treating Covid-19 patients, so there was a big increase in demand for humidifiers during the pandemic. Peter said: "It's essential to have really good moist oxygen therapy when you're using high volumes of oxygen to support patients’ breathing.”

As well as treating patients on invasive ventilation, humidifiers are also needed for other non-invasive high flow oxygen therapies. "You can never have enough of them,” Peter said. "They’re a simple piece of kit that we use a lot."

Humidifiers are important for treating Covid-19 patients, and any other patients who need help breathing. At the Charity we are aiming to buy 20 new humidifiers to help our NHS colleagues treat a range of patients with serious respiratory conditions.

Blood gas analyser

We are also raising funds to purchase a handheld blood gas analyser. This equipment provides lab quality diagnostics at the patient’s bedside within a few minutes. Peter said that this saves time in diagnosing and treating patients with acute respiratory failure.

"The analyser measures basic respiratory parameters and how acidic a patient's blood is. This allows us to understand what type of respiratory failure we are dealing with and therefore which therapy is likely to be most effective."

The equipment also gives feedback to our NHS colleagues during treatment. Peter said: "Down the line when you have initiated therapy it will guide you as to whether it is working or not, or whether you need to adjust the treatment plan."

A new blood gas analyser will help our NHS colleagues deliver the right treatment in a timely manner for a whole range of patients, including those suffering with Covid-19. This new equipment will continue to help the hospital staff treat critically ill patients after the end of the pandemic.

All this equipment will help our NHS colleagues continue to give world class care to all the patients that come to our hospitals, both during the pandemic and beyond it. Please donate to our Covid-19 Relief Fund to keep Royal Brompton and Harefield Hospital at the leading edge of patient care.