IBMS statement on blood tube shortage
The UK’s pathology services (in England, Scotland and Wales) are experiencing major disruptions to their supplies of blood test tubes due to the ‘just in time’ manufacturing model and an over reliance on a limited number of suppliers of the test tubes. Therefore, the routine maintenance closure of the Becton Dickinson factory, along with the increased global demand for blood test tubes, had a knock-on effect for the supply chain, resulting in potential disruption for patients. As pathology services seek alternative products, this will also lead to disruptions in other supply lines, widening the issue.
The supply issues with Becton Dickinson emphasise the need for pathology services to work in a more co-ordinated way, within networks with clear leadership structures, to ensure that the supplier base is wide, and so that pooled and shared resources can prevent significant disruption and mitigate the risk when issues do occur. To manage what is a highly complex supply base with many global components, this co-ordination should include national oversight and engagement with pathology and procurement experts.
The steps that are currently being taken by the NHS in England, Scotland and Wales will ensure that patients in need of blood tests will still be able to access them in good time. However, it will have an impact on the wider NHS recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic response and this will need to be factored in as pathology, phlebotomy and primary care services need to be supported accordingly.
Our experienced and highly skilled biomedical scientists and laboratory staff will be essential during the coming weeks and months. By reducing demand on the tubes in question, they will be able to ensure that disruption to services and patient harm are minimised.
The IBMS and our members are ready to support DHSC/NHS and devolved administrations during this period of disruption.