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No shortage of shortages

No shortage of shortages

Admittedly, my initial reaction to the current blood test tube debacle was one of delight. No, I can’t repeat the U&Es two weeks post-discharge to check a borderline sodium and ‘manage as appropriate’ because I haven’t a receptacle to collect that precious sodium in, so back to you, ‘discharge co-ordinator’, co-ordinate your way out of that.

But I might be taking the problem more seriously in a patient with an unrevealed Hb of 7.8, causing their breathlessness and underlying colon cancer to be untreated and undiagnosed. And very seriously indeed if it’s me that ends up getting sued because of any delay.

I guess we should be getting used to it, really, because for as long as I care to remember, there’s been no shortage of shortages. They’ve affected appointments, antidepressants, PPE, staff, GPs, HRT, locums, oxygen, money and so on. What next? Stethoscopes?  X-rays? Lubricating jelly?

In fact, the only thing we’re not short of is patients. Particularly angry patients. If they’re not scrawling graffiti on our surgery walls, they’re threatening to plant pipe bombs or throwing bloodstained tissues at us, though that might be the result of having nowhere to store the phlebotomy sample.

And that incandescent anger’s going to escalate as they unfairly blame us for the way these shortages compromise their care. After all, as is often pointed out, we GPs are always the final common psychopathway.

So what’s the answer? Well, it’s simple: put the NHS supply chain in charge of the supply of patients. If we could generate a national patient shortage, we’d be fine – via a patient manufacturing problem, say, or by importing a faulty batch of patients not fit for registration, or by PCSE inadvertently subtracting 1,000 patients from our monthly list sizes.

Think about it: how many times have we said that this job would be just fine if it wasn’t for the patients? Today, I mean? See, it’s a no-brainer: create a shortage of patients and all the other shortages would look after themselves. After all, the patients have bled the NHS dry for years, so now it’s their turn. Just as soon as we get those test tubes.

Dr Tony Copperfield is a GP in Essex. Read more of Copperfield’s blogs at



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

A non 19 August, 2021 6:26 pm

..better still , put Capita in charge of supplying patients. We could all go on holiday for a year and a half and watch as they fail to fix (or understand) their appointment booking portal. The first 6 months will no doubt involve ‘rapid’ Capita staff familiarisation with what a ‘patient’ is, followed by another six months of what a ‘GP’ is before ’emergency’ work to introduce the concept (somehow missed) of what an ‘appointment’ is…with any luck by the time the first ‘patients’ arrive we’ll have had enough of a rest to be able to be up for telling anyone who eventually turns up that they’ve got the wrong department and if they want a Pizza, like they say, they need to contact Dominos.

Patrufini Duffy 19 August, 2021 9:03 pm

It gets to the news that there’s a shortage of cucumbers and gluten-free beer. But not the blood bottles. They’ll still want their fashionable thyroid tested and a “check-up” because they “haven’t had one for a while (6 months)”. It’s all a bit blah blah wishy squigy washy. As long as the sertraline is in good stock, and the class A drugs, missiles, corruption and hooliganism then the country will be a-okay. The pandemic is over and 674 people died in the last 7 days. 674. That’s almost the annual number from cervical cancer. All your paper masks are still coming from China and Jordan, the country has learnt zero.

David Banner 20 August, 2021 11:49 am

“Hb of 7.8”….loving those old units!!!!!!!

David Church 20 August, 2021 5:10 pm

I have a half-tube of K-Y jelly, as it is so rare now, but partly used, I can let you have on a first-come-first-served basis, for £ 900, plus Postage and packing (£ 7:36) total £ 907:36. Only gold accepted.
I may also be able to obtain an actual binaural stethoscope also, for the right buyer, in fair-to-middling used condition, an absolute bargain – offers in excess of £ 2,500 to this email address please