GP surgeries in Gwent are continuing to cancel routine blood tests, as a shortage of a crucial medical supply continues.

Earlier this month, it was reported that health services across the UK was facing a shortage of blood bottles required to carry out blood testing.

And, while efforts have been made to source millions of additional supplies in recent weeks, it seems that the residual impact of the shortages continue.

It has been claimed that as recently as this week, some medical practices in the region are still unable to offer routine tests to patients, due to a lack of necessary supplies.

Due to the scale of the shortage crisis, the Welsh Government, rather than the local health boards, is taking charge of the situation.

Responding to news of shortages in Gwent, a government spokeswoman stressed that “Patient safety and continuity of care is our priority”.

Continuing, she said that efforts are continuing to minimise the “possible impact on patient care”.

However, at this time, it is not known when supply levels might return to a state in which routine testing may be carried out.

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How did we get here?

In August, it was reported that there was a global shortage of blood tube products, putting a key aspect of medical care in jeopardy.

Across the border in England, NHS bosses wrote to GPs and hospital trusts warning that supply was “forecasted to become even more constrained over the coming weeks”.

It was said all primary care and community testing must stop until September 17, except for “clinically urgent” testing.

While no similar memo is thought to have been written in Wales, it is clear that the health service here is facing similar problems.

In a bid to alleviate the pressure, medical technology company Becton Dickinson (BD) received “exceptional use authorisation” to import blood tubes into the UK.

But, while BD delivered nine million tubes to the NHS in the first week of September for immediate distribution, there were warnings that residual delays could yet impact on blood tests across the health service.

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What has been said about the shortage?

On August 24, Eluned Morgan MS, minister for health and social services said: “The four UK nations are managing a supply issue for products used for blood collection.

“The NHS have extensive experience dealing with medical supply issues, and are working to provide the continued high quality patient care the public expect. NHS Wales are leading the response within Wales with support from Welsh Government, and are working closely with other nations to put mitigations in place including to source clinically suitable alternatives to products affected.

“In order to preserve supplies for people that urgently need blood tests, the NHS issued clinical guidance to reduce the number of non-clinically urgent tests. Welsh experts were part of the UK Clinical Reference Group which endorsed the guidance. 

“Patient safety remains the priority, and a test would only be delayed if the NHS have assessed it is clinically safe to do so. 

“People who require urgent care should continue to seek it as normal.”

This week, a government spokeswoman added: “Patient safety and continuity of care is our priority, and we are supporting the NHS to ensure there is minimal possible impact on patient care.

"We are working closely with other nations across the UK to put mitigations in place to deal with this supply issue."