Becton Dickinson is a global medical technology company that supplies the NHS with some of the equipment the use to take blood tests. The company has informed the NHS that they have global shortages for some of that equipment.
The NHS issued updated guidelines to hospitals, community and primary care on 26 August 2021, with further information available on NHS England’s website.
GPs in the UK have been told to suspend non-essential blood tests amid a worsening shortage of test tubes. Tests for cancer diagnoses, unwell babies and prenatal screening are to be prioritised but patients with suspected allergies and vitamin D deficiencies are now likely to face delays to routine testing and fertility blood tests may also be affected.
You can still get tested for urgent health problems
It is important to stress that anyone who needs a test for urgent health problems, will still get one but where their clinician recommends that it is safe to do so, then people may be asked to come back for a more routine test at a later date, or their appointment may be rescheduled.
Given the international nature of the shortage, an exact date for when routine testing will be restarted cannot yet be provided, but where a patient’s condition or symptoms require it, then they will get a test. The NHS will be working to re-book appointments for postponed tests when supplies become more easily available.
Patients are being advised that where their condition or symptoms change or get worse, they should contact the NHS team caring for them. NHS England has issued lines to support NHS staff to have conversations with the public where concerns are raised.
Throughout this period, the NHS in south east London will be working together to minimise disruption to patients, as well as ensuring that anyone requiring an urgent blood test gets one quickly. Referral requests that have been made in the last few days will be respected and no cancellations will be made unless the referring practice has reviewed the referral and deemed it to be non-urgent. Any new requests made from now on will be assumed to be urgent, in line with the national guidelines issued on 26 August.
Paediatric blood tests are not affected by this issue.