Exclusive GPs across London have been told that patients who have already taken blood tests may need to re-take them, following supply issues exclusively revealed by Pulse yesterday.
In messages from CCGs in South East and North East London seen by Pulse, GPs were also told to inform patients who need to attend a phlebotomy service that they may need to wait until next week.
This follows the news broken by Pulse yesterday that doctors had been told to only send through ‘urgent’ tests to labs amid ‘a national reagent shortage’.
Supplier Roche explained a move to a new warehouse had caused unforeseen issues with dispatch of reagents to labs, adding that it was ‘prioritising’ the dispatch of Covid-19 ‘PCR and antibody tests’ to ‘‘ensure there is no impact on the supply of these to the NHS’.
In a message sent to the area’s GPs today, Mark Ricketts, chair of City and Hackney CCG and NEL clinical lead for primary care, said: ‘We are asking that GPs across North East London consider how best to reduce the number of routine blood test requests they make, and to have a process built in to follow up with these patients. This includes asking patients who need to attend a routine phlebotomy service to wait until next week. It is also possible that some patients whose bloods have been taken already may be required to have their test retaken.’
He added: ‘That is not currently the case but it may mean that they would need to make a further phlebotomy appointment if needed.
‘For GP practices using pathology services provided through Barts Health or BHRUT Trusts, they will not be undertaking any routine biochemistry tests received today in real-time unless marked clinically urgent.’
An almost identical email was sent to GPs from NHS South East London CCG, warning that services provided through Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust were affected.
Dr Thomas Round, a GP in North East London, told Pulse: ‘‘There are concerns that patients may have already had blood tests taken which won’t be processed – adding to primary care teams’ workload and patient inconvenience.
‘After the recent loss of Covid-19 tests, the last thing we need is more disruption to essential health service testing. It is crucial that this is swiftly resolved, otherwise risks of harm could escalate, and there would be more additional work for stretched GPs and primary care teams.’
Pulse also revealed that a number of GPs are heavily critical of Roche’s decision to ‘prioritise’ the dispatch of Covid ‘PCR and antibody tests’ to ‘ensure there is no impact on the supply of these to the NHS’.
Deeming the antibody tests as ‘of limited immediate clinical value’, BMA GP committee deputy chair Dr Mark Sanford-Wood said: ‘We call for assurances that patient care – both Covid and non-Covid – will be prioritised over Covid antibody tests, which are of limited immediate clinical value. Doctors in parts of the country already affected will not have timely access to vital tests.’