NHS Issues Blood Test Tube Shortage Guidance

Tim Locke

August 26, 2021

Doctors have been issued guidance to reduce use of some blood tests for 3 months due to a UK-wide shortage of collection tubes.

The main supplier to the NHS, Becton Dickinson, has reported serious supply chain issues, NHS England said there was also a global shortage and COVID-19 has increased the volume of testing.

NHS England asked doctors to:

  • Increase the time between some regular blood tests if it is clinically safe to do so

  • Stop vitamin D testing apart from in "very exceptional circumstances"

  • Defer routine infertility testing

They added that routine wellness screening, such as for pre-diabetes, and allergy testing were not current priorities.

Delayed Diagnosis

Dr David Wrigley, deputy chair of the BMA council, said: "While NHS England has provided some guidance for clinicians to follow, 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. We need to have adequate supplies of these tubes resumed, without further delay, and it is vital, going forward, that processes are put in place to ensure that supply chains of medical equipment are maintained at all times."

Similar guidance was issued in Wales. Dr David Bailey, chair of BMA Cymru Wales, commented: "All general practices have been advised to only keep up to 2 week's supply of bottles to avoid stockpiling, and to not collect blood if patients are referred straight to secondary care, along with a list of other measures.

"We have raised our concerns about the impact this could have on regular tests for NHS Health checks, the monitoring of quality of care, and medication reviews particularly as some patients will have gone without their routine chronic disease monitoring reviews during the COVID-19 pandemic."

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