'Holy Trinity' of ventilator callers leave James O'Brien 'appalled at government cronyism'

22 April 2021, 15:05

Caller who sells ventilators criticises Government purchasing

Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Three callers who sell, work with and fix ventilators left James O'Brien "appalled" at the government's "unbelievable cronyism" when buying NHS equipment.

This week, Labour called for an urgent investigation into Boris Johnson’s conduct following revelations about texts with entrepreneur Sir James Dyson and David Cameron's lobbying.

Senior Labour MP Rachel Reeves called for a powerful Commons committee to carry out the inquiry after it emerged the prime minister told Sir James he would "fix" an issue over the tax status of his employees.

The businessman's company had sought to build ventilators for the NHS as the coronavirus crisis first gripped the nation last year.

However, a series of callers left James O'Brien baffled at why ministers sought the help of the inventor and other businessmen rather than companies already producing the machines.

Read more: Govt PPE and Covid contracts worth 3.7bn raise corruption concerns - report

Watch: Business Secretary tells LBC PM behaved 'appropriately' in Dyson texts

James O'Brien spoke to three callers who sell, work with and fix ventilators
James O'Brien spoke to three callers who sell, work with and fix ventilators. Picture: PA / LBC

The first to ring in was a woman who works for a ventilation company in the UK.

She told James she had "plenty" of ventilators ready for use by the NHS but the Department of Health "wasn't interested at all".

"It is absolutely mind-blowing. They did eventually get back to us four or six weeks later saying 'OK we'll have them', but obviously they'd already gone as we'd shipped them to Scotland or Ireland," she said.

"If he wanted to keep it in the country... why have we bought so many Chinese ventilators at £50,000 a go, bearing in mind the average ventilator costs between £10,000-15,000?"

The caller said she found it "all very bizarre".

"Not only that, they're absolutely useless. I regularly go into clinical engineering departments in the NHS and they're all lined up with stickers saying 'Out of Use, Do Not Use'. They haven't even lasted six months."

Healthcare worker questions need to design new ventilator

A perplexed James responded: "You're saying we wasted money on overpriced ventilators that weren't fit for purpose? While at the time, the prime minister was busy taking a few moments off from playing Candy Crush on his phone to swap cosy texts with Sir James Dyson?"

The next caller was a man who operates ventilators for a living.

He said he "does not understand" how somebody with no experience can start making the machines when they are such complex pieces of technology that can take two to three years to develop.

James questioned why the prime minister thought "the digger man and the vacuum man" would be able to invent new machines and "pluck them out the ether in a matter of weeks".

The caller replied, saying "it makes absolutely no sense", adding that if a ventilator came along after taking just weeks to develop and with Dyson stamped on it, "I would feel very nervous using that ventilator, I wouldn't trust it as far as I could throw it".

James O'Brien's take on ventilator purchasing plans

The last call was from a man who fixes ventilators in intensive care.

He told James he couldn't believe it when he heard Boris Johnson say during the first wave of the pandemic that he was going to get companies making them "just like that" because of the "incredibly complex" technology involved in manufacturing the machines.

The caller said patients were on them for "weeks and months" in some cases and that you "cannot put someone on an old or new mechanical ventilator just chugging up and down and expect them to breathe normally".

He backed up the first caller's story about Chinese ventilators flooding the NHS with machines they "didn't need or didn't want".

Bewildered, James replied: "You're the Holy Ghost in this Trinity. We took a call from someone who sells ventilators, we've taken a call from somebody who works with ventilators in intensive care, and we've taken a call from someone who fixes and adapts ventilators for medical need.

"Every, single one of you has said the exact same thing, which is that you have no clue whatsoever what the hell they were playing at asking people like Dyson and the JCB bloke to invent or produce ventilators from scratch."

More James O'Brien

See more More James O'Brien

Sacked borders watchdog David Neal said the Home Office is 'dysfunctional' and needs reform.

'It goes to the very top': Sacked border watchdog slams Home Office and calls for reform after Cleverly row

Shahd Waleed is trying to leave Rafah with her parents and enter Egypt

'They want us to experience pain': Young woman trapped in Rafah with her parents tells of terror as Israel invasion looms

Sir Keir Starmer has defended comments he made about Margaret Thatcher earlier this month.

Starmer defends Thatcher comments as he says he ‘completely disagrees’ with former prime minister’s politics

A caller to James O’Brien’s programme has shared footage of the extraordinary destruction done to his newly purchased property just outside of Durham.

Property investor's shock at 'unexplainable level of damage' he discovered after buying new home

James Cleverly replaced Suella Braverman as home secretary on Monday

'I've spent more time with James Cleverly this week than with Suella Braverman in the last year', Sadiq Khan tells LBC

James O'Brien discusses Suella Braverman's 'destructionist' leadership style with a caller

'She's a destructionist': James O'Brien caller claims Suella Braverman governs like 'a five-year-old'

James O'Brien

'She definitely has something on him': Caller and James O'Brien debate why the PM hasn't sacked Suella Braverman yet

'A complete reset of the top' is needed says caller.

'We're being let down': There is a 'complete disconnection' between parliamentary and local Conservatives says caller

James O'Brien

'It's essential that people are able to protest peacefully against war', says James O'Brien

James O'Brien

Rishi Sunak 'almost physically moves away' from Suella Braverman in House of Commons debate, says James O'Brien

James O'Brien

'Suella Braverman succeeded - she's caused hate', claims caller after Home Secretary criticises pro-Palestine marches

'A fish rots from the head': James O'Brien caller reacts to claims of misogyny in Downing Street during Covid Inquiry

'A fish rots from the head': James O'Brien caller reacts to claims of misogyny in Downing Street during Covid Inquiry

'Ludicrous, bogus, nonsense': James O'Brien is astounded by Boris Johnson 'laughing at Italy' during the pandemic

'Ludicrous, bogus, nonsense': James O'Brien is astounded by Boris Johnson 'laughing at Italy' during the pandemic

James O'Brien on Dagestan

'It's a hatred as old as religion itself': James O'Brien analyses escalating anti-Semitism after Muslim crowd storms Dagestan airport

Carol Vorderman shocked about UK Poverty

'One million children are living in destitution': Carol Vorderman struggles to comprehend stark wealth inequality in the UK

Wes Streeting on dentistry

Wes Streeting invites the government to steal Labour's policy to solve 'dickensian' NHS dentist crisis

James O'Brien

'I think they're the loneliest voters in Britain', James O'Brien claims after Tories' double by-election defeat

JOB and caller Andy

Biden's visit to Israel is to show that the US stands 'unequivocally' with Israel says James O'Brien caller

JOB and Usman

Israel's current response will only 'strengthen' Hamas by rearing Gazans who seek revenge warns this James O'Brien caller

JOB on deaths in conflict

James O'Brien unpacks the 'controversial' feeling of being 'equally devastated' by Palestinian and Israeli deaths

JOB on starmer speech

Keir Starmer is using 'working class as the opposite of having a sense of entitlement', notes James O'Brien

JOB on HS2 promises

James O'Brien criticises Rishi Sunak's watering down of 'illustrative' Network North projects funded by HS2 cut

Sadiq Khan and James O'Brien

Sadiq Khan declares there is 'no place for anti-Semitism' in London as kosher restaurant in Golders Green attacked

James O'Brien on the challenge HS2 scrappage poses to Labour.

‘How much can Rishi Sunak knock down before Keir Starmer becomes Prime Minister?, asks James O’Brien

James O'Brien

Rishi Sunak is like an 'incontinent cat': James O'Brien slams Tories ahead of PM's Party Conference speech

JoB and Jeremy Hunt

Navy veteran deeply hurt by Jeremy Hunt's plans to clamp down on benefit claimants

James O'Brien on Tory tactics in the upcoming election.

Tories desperately seeking wedge issues is the 'only way' they will retain power in 2024, says James O'Brien

James and caller Mervin on knife crime

'I'd prefer you to go to jail than die': James O'Brien is left aghast by this caller's father's stance on knife possession

James O'Brien

James O'Brien ridicules those prioritising Labour's private school VAT plans over the cost of living crisis

James O'Brien

'I mean this is a novel': James O'Brien hears why this caller blames Labour for HS2 problems

James O'Brien

James O'Brien takes aim at uninformed 'idiots' criticising Keir Starmer for not wanting to diverge from EU rules

JOB on Rishi Sunak Bins

Rishi 'seven-bin' Sunak is lifting bans that 'don't exist', asserts James O'Brien