GPs are being urged to cut the unnecessary use of blood test tubes after manufacturers warned of shortages in the coming weeks.
NHS England has been told that soaring demand coupled with ‘UK border challenges’ had hit production and supply chains.
New guidance issued by the NHS as a result of the warnings advises GPs to continue to take blood samples from patients as usual.
But it also calls on practices to try to cut down on waste by rotating stock to make tubes are used before they go out of date, to stop ‘double tube’ practices such as HbA1C and full blood counts and to stop using blood collection tubes for training purposes.
GPs have also been told to order any new stock from NHS Supply Chain rather than try to buy the equipment directly from the manufacturers.
Fears of a global blood tube shortage were sparked when Becton Dickinson (BD) Life Sciences notified the NHS of a disruption to supplies.
The British In Vitro Diagnostics Association (BIVDA) said BD Life Sciences was a key supplier of the tubes and had apologised to NHS trusts for the disruption.
The tubes contain chemicals to prevent samples from clotting before getting to the lab and have been used during the pandemic to test for clotting in covid patients who may have coagulopathy, a complication that affects the blood’s ability to clot.
BIVDA said the company had promised trusts it was ‘manufacturing around the clock’ and ‘balancing the frequency of preventative maintenance’ at its plants to minimise shutdown and provide a continuing supply of products.
The Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) said patient safety and continuity of care remained its priority.
A spokeswoman said: ‘The health and care system is working closely with BD to put mitigations in place to resolve any problems if they arise.’
The DHSC said NHS Supply Chain should help manage the demand for all NHS organisations across England to make sure there is a consistent approach to allocations and has called on GPs to order stock from NHS Supply Chain rather than seeking to purchase directly from BD Life Sciences.
The news comes as scientists have said that blood tests to detect long Covid could become available within months.