THE BRITISH MEDICAL ASSOCIATION (BMA) has written to the UK Government calling for urgent action from ministers to address the shortage of blood test tubes that is having a severe impact on healthcare services and staff and causing anxiety for patients.

In a letter to the Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid, the BMA outlines a number of areas that require urgent attention, including:

  • Public-facing communications from government, responding to patients’ concerns and outlining how long the current situation is expected to last;
  • A clear plan for what happens if the tubes run out before an alternative supply can be put in place;
  • Assurances that once supplies return to normal doctors will be supported to deal with the resulting backlog in tests.

BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul says in the letter: “While we understand this is an unforeseen set of circumstances, it is still deeply concerning that we did not have national planning in place to ensure that an issue with one blood tube manufacturer did not impact the whole of the NHS’ blood testing capacity.

“It is also deeply concerning that we continue to see a lack of public facing communications from either NHSEI [NHS England Improvement] nor the government, providing an explanation of the issue and an action plan with timescales. Instead, frontline staff are having to contend with significant additional work in cancelling and reprioritising blood tests at [a] time of unprecedented pressures in our health service, as well as facing unfair complaints, anger and criticism from patients for a situation not of their own making.

“Surely ministers must now demonstrate publicly visible responsibility and take the necessary actions to address the shortage, whether through departmental leadership or given the severity of the situation through the COBRA process. It is imperative that the government explores every avenue to return us to a normal blood testing service.”

Dr Nagpaul says that a public-facing communications campaign would “help to mitigate against instances, which we are already seeing, of GPs facing abuse because they are following NHSEI guidance to delay routine blood tests due to the national shortage.”

He continues: “At a time when doctors are working harder than ever, it is simply unacceptable that they are bearing the brunt of frustrations brought about by issues completely outside of their control.”

The BMA also says there must be an investigation into the circumstances that led to the shortage, and measures put in place to ensure that it cannot happen again.

* Read a full copy of the letter here.

* Source: British Medical Association