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NHS blood tests halted due to vial shortages

Published on 26/08/21 at 09:45am

The NHS has suspended some blood testing due to a shortage in collection tube supplies following warnings from Becton Dickinson (BD), the company that supplies the vials, of serious supply chain issues in the UK.

BD has experienced unprecedented demand for products due to the pandemic, as tubes were needed to test patients for COVID-19.

The medical device company, which manufactures its tubes in the US, said routine testing for procedures which were delayed due to the pandemic had also increased demand.

Due to the shortages, the NHS England has temporarily stopped some fertility testing, screening for pre-diabetes, allergies and certain blood disorders.

In its guidance, 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".

Adding: "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 urgent care”.

The British Medical Association warned that a lack of tubes could worsen the "enormous backlog of care" created by the pandemic. It said it was "unreasonable" to ask healthcare staff to delay blood tests until a later date.

"No doctor wants the consequence of delayed diagnosis for patients due to these shortages, and they also need to know they are protected from any possible negligence claims," said Dr David Wrigley, Deputy Chair of BMA council.

A spokesperson for the Department for Health and Social Care told the BBC: "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 mitigations in place to resolve any problems if they arise," they added.

Diabetes UK expressed concerns for the 13.6 million people in the country at increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. The symptoms of Type 2 diabetes can develop more slowly than those for Type 1.

Nikki Joule, policy manager at the charity, said the supply issues would make the condition "harder to spot".

Kat Jenkins

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