This site is intended for health professionals only

GPs fear financial losses and patient abuse due to blood test shortage

GPs fear financial losses and patient abuse due to blood test shortage

Exclusive GPs have warned that an ongoing shortage of blood test tubes could lead to further abuse from patients as well as potential financial losses and negative CQC ratings.

Last week, GPs were told to suspend non-essential blood tests amid a worsening shortage of test tubes sparked by soaring demand and ‘UK border challenges’.

The NHS guidance followed an earlier call for GPs to take steps to minimise blood tube wastage after medical technology company Becton Dickinson (BD) warned of serious supply chain issues.

NHS Supply Chain had initially said it expected to see improvement from next month, however NHS England later said that the supply shortages are set to last for ‘a significant period of time’.

Now GPs have warned of the potential consequences of the crisis, including managing ‘patient expectations’.

North Staffs LMC secretary and BMA GP Committee policy lead on NHS England Dr Chandra Kanneganti told Pulse that central communications must go out to patients to prevent them from blaming GPs for their cancelled appointments.

He said that while it is ‘too early to say’ whether there have already been incidents in his area, practices cancelling routine blood tests are facing questions from patients wanting an explanation.

Dr Kanneganti said: ‘[A] communication should go to the patients as well – “there is a national shortage of this thing, please understand” – because what will happen is that when we cancel [bloods] which are routinely booked because of this new advice, they will blame GPs.

‘We get abuse for everything. [But] this is not our fault or anybody’s fault, it’s a national shortage.’

It comes amid rising abuse levied against GP practices, which last week saw practices targeted with bomb threats.

Nottinghamshire GP Dr Prakash Kachhala also told Pulse there will be ‘a lot of annoyed patients who can’t understand why this is happening’ and added that there could be repercussions on practices’ QOF scores if the shortage continues.

He said: ‘A lot of our chronic disease reviews include bloods, so if this becomes a longer issue, no doubt we’ll be cancelling these reviews – [this] would certainly impact on QOF [and] patient safety, including drug monitoring.’

And Londonwide LMCs medical director Dr Elliott Singer added: ‘Practices are already struggling to deliver on QOF targets and that is before we start on phase three of the Covid vaccination programme and flu vaccines. 

‘If practices have to delay routine testing due to the shortage, there will be insufficient time and capacity to make this up, which will potentially have a significant financial impact on practices, many of whom are already struggling financially.’

Dr Kanneganti also said his ‘main worry’ is that practices may be ‘penalised’ by the CQC for not completing blood tests and called on NHS England to halt the monitoring of services that are affected.

He told Pulse: ‘Most of the CQC visits that have started recently are looking at monitoring of disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs). All these things need blood tests every three months. 

‘The CQC is checking whether practices are doing [regular monitoring for certain drugs], but now that this guidance came out NHS England should tell CQC to stop assessing practices based on that.’

He added: ‘[Practices should] not feel that they’re penalised and rated badly because they were given this guidance.’

And Dr Peter Holden, chair of the BMA’s professional fees committee and a GP in Derbyshire, told Pulse his practice is already facing ‘stroppy’ patients and that he is concerned about potential clinical liability.

He said: ‘We are annotating our notes to say blood tests would be desirable but [we have] no blood bottles. We can’t be liable for something that is beyond our control.’

He added: ‘We do phlebotomy sampling on behalf of the hospital to save people a 40-mile round trip and we’ve had to stop that as well. It’s going to impact patients who are going to have to travel unless we get the bottles. The patients are getting very stroppy about it.’

Meanwhile, GPs have taken to social media to express their concerns.

Dr Kachhala tweeted that he feared for patient safety with only 25 test tubes for his 16,000-patient practice this week.

And a Bexley-based member of a Facebook group for EMIS users said the shortage was ‘being investigated as a significant event’.

Additional reporting by Caitlin Tilley and Nicola Merrifield


Visit Pulse Reference for details on 140 symptoms, including easily searchable symptoms and categories, offering you a free platform to check symptoms and receive potential diagnoses during consultations.


Please note, only GPs are permitted to add comments to articles

Squamous 18 August, 2021 11:14 am

There seems to be a media wide reluctance to name the real cause of this which is quite obviously Brexit. There is no such extreme shortage elsewhere in Europe. Incidentally their supermarket shelves aren’t empty either. It’s rather disturbing that we can’t be told the truth.

Turn out The Lights 18 August, 2021 11:29 am

51% of the population don’t want to know the truth. It wouldn’t fit in with their delusional believes of being a strong country with and empire who can cope on it own or could such resources from it empire to survive.

David jenkins 18 August, 2021 1:04 pm

“dear patient

i am sorry that your planned blood test cannot be done at the practice.

this is because the nhs administrators have not sent us the bottles that they normally supply us with.

a form is enclosed for you to take to the hospital to get your test done there.

we realise that this is inconvenient, but you will understand that this is completely beyond our control.

as soon as this is put right, we will let you know”

dump it all on the hospital – they are quick enough to dump on us !

this will also help them realise we cannot be held responsible for all the nhs ills. it may also deflect some impending aggression and complaints to the hospital, and hopefully the sudden surge in demand for hospital services will help the hospital realise how much work is actually done outside their ivory towers !

Patrufini Duffy 18 August, 2021 2:40 pm

Disenhance your riled up service. And move it onears. Next you’ll be filing patient nails, after the benevolent ear wax removal and adding a shoe polish bent over.

Squamous 18 August, 2021 3:16 pm

Ok . . well it seems it may not just be Brexit to blame this time!

Douglas Callow 18 August, 2021 3:50 pm

Squamous This is a a smokescreen…. its Brexit

James Weems 18 August, 2021 8:36 pm

I’d say brexit is up there!