‘Worrying’ cancellations of routine blood tests down to warehouse failure
PUBLISHED: 05:30 14 October 2020 | UPDATED: 16:02 14 October 2020
Patients in Suffolk and north Essex are among thousands across the UK to have their routine blood tests cancelled due to a supply chain failure.
Swiss pharmaceutical firm Roche said problems with a move to a new warehouse in the UK led to a “very significant” drop in its processing capacity.
The company was therefore unable to deliver some biochemistry reagents and chemicals needed for blood tests, forcing hospitals and GP practices across Suffolk and north Essex to make clinically urgent tests a priority.
Tests for Covid-19 are being prioritised, while routine blood tests for cancer and heart disease have been delayed.
Wendy Turner, who is a Mid Suffolk district councillor for Thurston, was diagnosed with leukaemia following a routine blood test in 2019.
She said these delays are a real concern.
“Last year I was found to have leukaemia after being invited in for a routine blood test as I was between the age of 45 and 75,” she said.
“If my blood test had been this year, then my leukaemia would have been totally missed. It’s very worrying.”
Mrs Turner has routine tests every three months to make sure her leukaemia is being suppressed, but was told by Ixworth Medical Practice that her upcoming check-up may not go ahead.
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She said: “As soon as the leukaemia was detected I had a consultant the very next day and I am very grateful.
“I am feeling well in myself now, but it is still very worrying that tests are being cancelled.”
Dr Ed Garratt, executive lead for the Suffolk and North East Essex Integrated Care System, said: “A problem with a national NHS supplier Roche means that we have unfortunately had to cancel a limited number of tests across health settings in Suffolk and north east Essex.
“We appreciate this is frustrating for patients and Roche are working urgently with the NHS nationally to resolve this.
“Locally, we are doing everything we can to reduce the impact on our patients, including working closely with other NHS organisations to share these chemicals wherever we can.”
Geoff Twist, general manager of Roche Diagnostics UK and Ireland, said: “Our national distribution centre is now fully operational and over the weekend (10-11 October) we dispatched 21 tonnes of products to laboratories in the UK and Ireland including two direct shipments of critical products from our warehouse in Mannheim, Germany.
“By increasing the capacity of our UK distribution centre, and supplementing our scheduled shipments with the direct delivery of products from Germany, we are rapidly reducing the backlog caused by the temporary logistical issues.
“We will, of course, continue to work closely with our customers to prioritise delivery of the products they are telling us are most urgent, as well as those used by critical services including cancer, cardiac and infectious diseases.
“There has been no impact on the supply of COVID-19 tests and these were distributed to the NHS on Thursday, October 8 as planned.
“The supply of Roche medicines and Diabetes Care products is continuing as normal.
“I would like to thank our partners within the NHS and HSE for working with us to keep providing vital diagnostic services to patients as we resolve these issues. I would also like to restate how deeply we regret the impact this has had and once again extend my personal apology to our customers.”
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