GP and hospitals asked to prioritise tests due to blood tube shortage

Blood Centrifuge Machine in the laboratory

The British Medical Association (BMA) said the shortage of tubes across hospitals and GP surgeries is now severe, with NHS guidance saying the most clinically important blood tests may be at risk. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Doctors across the country are being put in a "terrible, unenviable position" around blood tests following a shortage of tubes. 

The British Medical Association (BMA) said the shortage of tubes across hospitals and GP surgeries is now severe, with NHS guidance saying the most clinically important blood tests may be at risk.

Dr Vishal Sharma, BMA consultants committee chair, called for tube manufacturers to explain how stocks have run so low, with hospital trusts being to cut testing by a quarter.

Dr David Wrigley, council deputy chair, said; “This crisis has put doctors and their patients in a terrible, unenviable position.

"No doctor knowingly undertakes unnecessary blood tests and to now have to ration all those we are doing, as well as cancel hundreds more, goes against everything we stand for as clinicians.

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“However, if we don’t try to follow the NHS guidance, it’s clear we will get to the point where even the most clinically urgent of blood tests may not be able to be done as we simply won’t have the tubes for the blood to go into.

“We are at a very perilous point and it’s surprising that NHS England hasn’t declared a critical incident given the very strong possibility that NHS organisations may temporarily lose the ability to provide lifesaving diagnostic testing.

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"We also call on NHS England to commit to the changes that are needed for their guidance to be properly followed by doctors, and provide patients with detailed, easily accessible information about the situation.

“Many GP practices – like mine – will now have to spend hours assessing which already scheduled tests can or cannot be cancelled and this takes time away from frontline patient care when it is most needed. Cancelling tests makes patients anxious and can mean a missed diagnosis.” 

Dr Sharma added: "It is shocking that this situation has been allowed to develop – in particular, the apparent over-reliance on one manufacturer and the woeful lack of any kind of reserve supply.

"The manufacturers should also have to explain how they allowed stocks to run so low that patients will now suffer as a result. If we don’t get on top of this shortage – and quickly – then we could very easily end up in a catastrophic position, particularly in hospitals where patients come to serious harm.” 

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