NHS England has issued guidance urging doctors to stagger regular blood tests for some conditions because there is a shortage of vials. The company that makes them says it is facing challenges to get the equipment into the UK
The NHS has stopped testing for certain conditions because of a shortage of equipment.
NHS England has issued guidance asking doctors to stagger regular blood tests for certain conditions because they have a shortage of collection tubes.
Becton Dickinson (BD), which makes vials for the NHS, has warned of serious supply chain issues across the UK. It said it had seen an unprecedented demand for products driven by the need for tubes to test Covid-19 patients.
The company manufactures its tubes in the US.
It said routine testing for procedures which were delayed because of the pandemic has also increased demand.
Due to this, NHS England and NHS Wales has temporarily stopped some fertility testing, screening for pre-diabetes, allergies and certain blood disorders.
NHS England said there was “global shortages of blood tube products,” not just with BD and added that its guidance to medics was being issued in “order to balance demand.”
A spokesman added: “Clinicians and local pathology laboratories should review their current local practices in line with this guidance with a view to reducing the number of tests and impacted products used without impacting on local care.”
The British Medical Association (BMA) warned that the lack of the equipment to carry out blood tests could make “the enormous backlog of care” created by the pandemic even worse.
They said it was “unreasonable” to ask healthcare staff to delay blood tests until a later date.
Dr David Wrigley, deputy chair of the BMA council said: “No doctor wants the consequence of delayed diagnoses for patients due to these shortages, and they also need to know they are protected from any possible negligence claims.”
BD said that in addition to increased demand, it was experiencing “continued transportation challenges” which they said included port and transport capacity, air freight capacity and UK border challenges.
The company told the BBC: “Suppliers are challenged to meet increased demand for raw materials and components. We are balancing the frequency of preventative maintenance leading to plant shutdown to provide continuing supply of products, and we are working closely with our raw material suppliers, transport agencies and other necessary third parties to minimise supply disruptions.”
A Department for Health and Social Care spokesman said: “Patient safety and continuity of care is our priority and we are working to ensure there is minimal possible impact on patient care.
“The health and care system is working closely with BD to put mitigation in place to resolve any problems if they arise.”
GPs and patients have tweeted about the shortage and cancellations of blood tests.
One GP tweeted: “#blood bottles shortage, what’s the plan from @NHSEngland. How are GP’s supposed to hit targets when there are factors outside their control. On one hand asking us to prioritise clinically and on another hand not trusting us and asking us to chase #QOF targets.”
Diabetes UK told the BBC there are concerns for the 13.6 million people in England at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Nikki Joule, policy manager at the charity said: “It is very important that those previously identified by their GP as being at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes receive their annual checks – including checking their blood glucose levels – and do not fall through the cracks due to a logistical issue.”