Intended for healthcare professionals

News Q&A

What has caused the NHS blood tube shortage, and how is it affecting doctors and patients?

BMJ 2021; 374 doi: (Published 03 September 2021) Cite this as: BMJ 2021;374:n2174
  1. Abi Rimmer
  1. The BMJ

What’s happening?

Becton Dickinson (BD), which manufactures most of the blood tubes used by the NHS, has alerted NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE/I) to a global shortage of some of its products. This includes two types of blood tubes: those with a yellow or purple top.

What caused the shortage?

BD says that the covid-19 pandemic created the most unpredictable demand it has seen in the past 70 years. The company says that it has also been difficult for customers to predict the types and quantities of blood tubes they will be using from month to month, which affects manufacturers’ abilities to meet demand. “Adding to the issue are global transportation delays that have resulted in more products being tied up in transportation than is normal, creating additional delays in deliveries,” BD said in a statement. “Raw material suppliers are also challenged to keep up with demand for materials and components.”

What’s being done to tackle it?

In the UK, BD has been authorised to import blood tubes that are approved for use in other regions of the world, including the United States. It plans to deliver nine million of these additional blood tubes to the NHS for immediate distribution. Ahead of this, the tubes were assessed and approved by the Medicines and Healthcare Products …

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