In a letter to health secretary Sajid Javid, BMA chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul called on the government to run a public information campaign to warn the public about delays for blood tests and how long the disruption will last.
Dr Nagpaul said GPs were ‘bearing the brunt of frustrations’ and insisted that there must be a ‘clear plan’ for what happens if the NHS runs out of blood tubes before alternative supplies are found.
He also argued that doctors must be supported to deal with an ‘inevitable surge in blood tests’ when supplies return - warning practices were unsure how they would be able to catch up.
Blood tube shortages
The warning comes as GPonline reported earlier this week that GP practice staff were ‘at their wits' end’ dealing with complaints and abuse from patients about disruption to blood tests.
Dr Nagpaul said: ‘Frontline staff are having to contend with significant additional work in cancelling and reprioritising blood tests at times of unprecedented pressures in our health service, as well as facing unfair complaints, anger and criticism from patients for a situation not of their own making.
‘Surely ministers must now demonstrate publicly visible responsibility and take the necessary actions to address the shortage, whether through departmental leadership or given the severity of the situation through the COBRA process.
‘It is imperative that the government explores every avenue to return us to a normal blood testing service, and we believe the following additional steps must be taken if we are to limit the already significant impact which is being felt by patients across both primary and secondary care settings.’
Last week, GPs were instructed to stop all non-urgent blood tests until 17 September, except for clinically urgent testing. Practices have been advised to move any blood tests scheduled before mid-September to 'a later point in the year when supply improves'.
Dr Nagpual added: ‘At a time when doctors are working harder than ever, it is simply unacceptable that they are bearing the brunt of frustrations brought about by issues completely outside of their control.
‘There must be a clear plan put in place for what happens should the NHS run out of blood tubes before an alternative supply can be put in place. Once an alternative supply is put in place it will be important to get as many blood tubes to doctors as quickly as possible, through an evenly distributed approach to ensure that no one area is left without.’
The BMA also says there must be an investigation into the circumstances that led to the shortage, and measures put in place to ensure that it cannot happen again. NHS England has confirmed that the current shortage is forecaste to become even more constrained over the coming weeks.
The union previously warned that GPs should not take the blame for disruption to blood tests and that they should be protected from any clinical negligence claims that result from patients receiving a delayed diagnosis.