Ventilators are vital to help treat the minority of COVID-19 patients who become very seriously ill with the virus.

Last week, the UK government issued a call for manufacturers from a range of industries to help produce new ventilators and components.

Meanwhile, they’ve been trying to buy existing machines to use in the fight against coronavirus.

But ministers in the Department of Health seem to have contradicted each other on the key question of how many ventilators the NHS currently has in the space of just three days.

How many ventilators are in use right now?

Earlier this week, the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, told the BBC that “there’s now over 12,000 that we’ve managed to get to”.

He explained that before the crisis struck, the NHS had some 5,000 ventilators, but that the government has been buying more to deal with the pressures caused by coronavirus.

It’s not clear exactly what Mr Hancock meant by “managed to get to”, but many took the Health Secretary’s words to mean that, as of this Monday, there were 12,000 ventilators currently available for use in the NHS.

This morning, his junior minister, Edward Argar, suggested otherwise.

Asked how many ventilators the NHS has at the moment, Mr Argar said: “We are now up to around 8,000 ventilators”.

He added: “This number is going up all the time because we are purchasing more – there are another 8,000 on top of that that we have ordered.”

FactCheck has asked the Department of Health to explain the apparent contradiction between the ministers and to clarify what Mr Hancock meant when he said they’d “managed to get to” 12,000 ventilators earlier this week.

We will update if we get a reply.