Larnook has teamed up with its client CanCo to offer a ready to go ‘Cura’ for the NHS’s need for more intensive care capacity.

The companies have offered to deliver mobile intensive care units at short notice to help the NHS cope with additional demand resulting from the covid-19 outbreak.

The units, based on an ‘open source’ design perfected by specialists at America’s prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and at Milan Polytechnic, provide all the features of an intensive care unit packed into a single 20-foot shipping container.

The smaller size and scalability mean that they can be easily flexed to meet demand, making them more cost-effective than other approaches.

Labelled Cura by their inventors (Connected Units for Respiratory Ailments), the designs have been made available free on-line to allow rapid deployment around the world.

And now London-based CanCo and Larnook have stepped up to make the units available to the NHS.

The two companies were busy delivering a container-based retail scheme on Lodge Lane in Toxteth when the lockdown halted work.

“We have the design and engineering expertise for rapid deployment of containers so when we read about Cura we thought we could put these to good use,” says Larnook managing director Chris Evans.  “Our workforce is on stand-by and it’s not a particularly labour-intensive project, so safe-distancing is perfectly manageable with the right controls in place.”

Canco, part of the wider Midos Group, has agreed to provide the advance funds for purchase, fit-out and construction of two units so that the company can meet immediate demand – and the news has captured the media’s interest.

“Many NHS trusts have had to set aside intensive care capacity for covid-19 cases and the Cura units provide them with additional short-term capacity or the potential to re-direct existing resources back to other medical conditions,” says CanCo director Nathan Schreiber.

“If an area is hit with a particularly wide outbreak then these containers can be moved and in place within a matter of hours.  Think of them as like a mobile field hospital,” says Schreiber.

Each container mimics an intensive care room, right down to extractors to create negative air pressure, and includes beds, ventilators and other equipment.

Containers can be joined by vacuum-sealed inflatable corridors and because of the nature of the design, can be scaled up rapidly to provide additional capacity.

“It’s their rapid deployment and flexibility that makes these such an attractive option for the NHS,” says Schreiber.

The original idea was conceived by Italian architect Carlo Ratti who teaches at MIT.  He engaged colleagues at Milan Polytechnic, engineers from global consultancy Jacobs and a team of leading physicians to advise on the design and clinical aspects.  Once the scheme was proven to be medically sound, the designs were made available for others to copy.

“You’ve got to take your hat off to these people,” says Chris Evans at Larnook.  “Major facilities such as the Nightingale Hospital in London are a good example of a large-scale solution, but we can provide a flexible alternative in a scaleable format. The extraction systems in each container and the fact that each patient is isolated reduces the risk of medical staff getting infected, too.

“We’re good to go and want the NHS to know that, should there be a second outbreak then there’s a resource here that can be deployed quickly to give them the capacity they need.”