Doctors and patients need to know what will happen if blood tube stocks run out, says BMA

by BMA media team

Press release from the BMA

Location: England
Last reviewed: 26 August 2021

Responding to today’s publication of updated guidance from NHS England about worsening shortages of yellow and purple topped blood tubes in England, Dr David Wrigley, deputy council chair at the BMA, said:

“This advice follows a fortnight of the BMA repeatedly calling on the Government and NHS England for clarity on blood tube shortages, and how doctors are meant to safely navigate these supply issues. 

“Although this guidance is long-awaited, we are still no closer to understanding how this situation was able to develop; why there wasn’t a contingency plan; and what happens if - despite NHS England’s efforts to avoid this - GP surgeries and hospitals do run out of blood tubes before 17 September. 

“In the meantime, patients who need a range of blood tests may now face cancellations, or at best a delay with those tests and this is a huge concern. Blood tests are a fundamental part of patient care, giving us essential insights into different conditions, warning signs, and overall health. If they can’t be done or are delayed, then the quality of patient care is under threat. Clinicians across the NHS, in hospitals and GP surgeries, are getting increasingly concerned, and understandably asking what the plan is if they run out of blood tubes in the coming days and weeks.
“It’s not unreasonable to question that there must have been a time when NHS England and the Government knew that blood tube supplies were running low, and therefore, to now ask, ‘Why has nothing been done to mitigate that?’

“Instead, doctors have been left in an incredibly difficult situation, with no choice but to inform their patients that they cannot carry out certain blood tests for the time being and that appointments they may have for a test could be cancelled. Patients need to have clear information about the scale of the problem, the impact it may have on them and what’s being done to keep them safe. That needs to come from NHS England and very soon.   
“Today’s guidance does not explain what will happen if hospitals or GP surgeries do run out of stock, and this must be addressed as a matter of urgency. Fundamentally, if shortages are due to a manufacturer not fulfilling its obligations, then it’s clear that much better resilience in the supply chain is needed, not only to ensure our colleagues are not let down again, but also that patients can receive the care and treatment they need and deserve.”


Notes to editors

The BMA is a trade union and professional association representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.