A SHORTAGE of blood test tubes is having a “huge impact” on medical services in the region, doctors have warned. 

NHS bosses have written to England’s GPs and hospital trusts warning that supply was “forecasted to become even more constrained over the coming weeks”.

The letter said all primary care and community blood testing must stop until September 17, except in “clinically urgent” cases.

Services in the North East have been severely affected and staff have blamed Brexit as a significant contributing factor to the supply issues. 

“It’s having a huge impact on all of us,” said Professor Ahmet Fuat, a Darlington GP and former chairman of the town’s primary care network. 

“It’s creating angst and worry among patients. So many things were already pushed back with Covid and we were trying to catch up.

“There’s now a lot of work for our staff who are cancelling appointments and deciding which ones we can and can’t do.”

The Northern Echo: Professor Ahmet FuatProfessor Ahmet Fuat

The British Medical Association warned shortages across hospitals and GP surgeries were “severe” and if the NHS did not reduce usage in the coming days “even the most clinically important blood tests may be at risk”.

Acute and mental health trusts were also told reduce their demand by a minimum of 25 per cent for the period.

The crisis came after medical technology company Becton Dickinson reported temporary supply chain issues for tubes used to collect samples in blood tests.

Professor Fuat said: “It seems to be due to supply chains in the UK and we have to call it for what it is, and that it’s due to Brexit. 

“We seem to just have one main supplier and NHS England needs to look to have more suppliers so this doesn’t happen in the future.

“It’s creating a lot of pressure and I really don’t think we can say when we will be able to resume.”

READ MORE: NHS halts non-emergency blood tests due to supply issues

Although the UK secured millions of blood tubes last week, GPs, hospitals and health trusts have been advised to continue to restrict blood tests. Medical groups and surgeries around the region have also spoken about the shortage. 

Denmark Street Doctors in Darlington warned patients they face delays with no clear date when tests will resume. 

A statement from the practice said: “Anyone who needs a test for urgent health problems will still get one but where your clinician recommends that it’s safe to do so, then you may be asked to come back for a test at a later date, or your appointment may be rescheduled. 

“Given the nature of the shortage, we cannot give an exact date for when the test will be rescheduled, but please be assured that if your condition or symptoms require it, then you will get a test, and we will be re-booking your test when supplies become more easily available.”

Jubilee Medical Group in Newton Aycliffe, said it had cancelled all testing until September 18, except for urgent cases.  “We’re being told only to do urgent blood tests where it may prevent a patient going to hospital or if we’re investigating a cancer,” it said. 

Becton Dickinson said there had been “unpredictable” demand for its vacutainer blood collection tubes due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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