Scheduled blood tests are being cancelled across the UK and doctors are being forced to make hard decisions about what to do if they lose the ability to provide life-saving diagnostic testing due to a Brexit-prompted shortage of blood collection tubes.
BREAKING: The UK now cannot do most blood tests. No tubes. GPs are forced to ration. Read this BMA press release from last night. “At a very perilous point”… pic.twitter.com/rOAvmeHGrA
— Anthony Costello (@globalhlthtwit) August 29, 2021
Becton Dickinson, the NHS’s main supplier of blood collection tubes, has been blamed for the shortage, with the manufacturer suggesting the post-Brexit HGV driver shortage could be to blame, according to iNews.
The Department of Health and Social Care is desperately trying to play down the crisis, saying everything is being done to eliminate the shortage.
But NHS England has released new guidance that aims to reduce the use of blood tubes to the bare minimum, suggesting that the issue is serious.
And bosses of the British Medical Association – the doctors’ trade union – are furious. Their press release on the situation makes this abundantly clear [boldings mine]:
“The BMA says the shortage of blood tubes across hospitals and GP surgeries is now severe and if the NHS does not reduce the amount being used in the coming days, even the most clinically important blood tests may be at risk.
“Doctors at the BMA have already made plain their concerns about the implications for patients and their anger that this shortage has been allowed to happen in the first place. However, in the absence of a plan to bring in alternative supplies before the middle of next month, the situation is now urgent. The BMA is urging all doctors to follow the NHS guidance and carry out only the most critical of tests for the time being.
“Dr David Wrigley, BMA 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.
“‘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. 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 Vishal Sharma, BMA consultants committee chair, said: ‘The very suggestion that an acute hospital trust needs to reduce testing by 25 per cent is highly alarming. However, to try and avoid a situation where there are simply no more blood tubes, we have no choice but to now make very careful decisions about which tests to carry out.
“‘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.’”
“Severe… anger… terrible, unenviable position… goes against everything we stand for as clinicians… Perilous… can mean a missed diagnosis… highly alarming… shocking that this situation has been allowed to develop… Woeful… catastrophic… patients come to serious harm.”
And it is – apparently – a result of Brexit. And the “politicians” responsible for it couldn’t care less.
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