‘National emergency’ over shortage of intravenous fluids

NHS bosses declare a ‘national emergency’ as it emerges hundreds of patients including cancer sufferers have been hit by a shortage of intravenous fluids

  • NHS bosses have declared shortage of intravenous fluids ‘national emergency’ 
  • Several patients have reportedly been admitted to hospital with malnutrition
  • The problem affects food supplied that are given to patients via a tube 

By Sophie Borland Health Editor For The Daily Mail

Published: 20:44 EDT, 13 August 2019 | Updated: 20:50 EDT, 13 August 2019

Hundreds of patients including cancer sufferers and critically ill children have been affected by a shortage of intravenous fluids.

NHS bosses have declared the situation a ‘national emergency’ and are now considering importing supplies from abroad.

Several patients, including one child, have reportedly been admitted to hospital with malnutrition as a result of the shortage.

The problem affects food supplies that are given to patients via a tube, known as total parenteral nutrition, or TPN.

NHS bosses have declared the situation a ‘national emergency’ and are now considering importing supplies from abroad (file image)

These are administered to those nearing the end of their life as well as people with serious disabilities or certain cancers that mean they cannot digest food.

The shortage has come about because of restrictions placed on the main supplier, Calea, last month by the medicines and devices watchdog, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

During an inspection in June contamination was found in the production area at the site and the company was ordered to take action. This has limited the amount of stock that could be delivered from the company’s factory in Runcorn, Cheshire, to hospitals across England.

The exact number of patients caught up by the shortage is not known but a spokesman from the firm told the Health Service Journal (HSJ) it was ‘hundreds’. NHS England, which runs the Health Service, has asked hospitals to review all their patients receiving intravenous feed to ensure only those deemed at high risk are allocated scarce supplies.

Dr Aidan Fowler, NHS England’s national safety director, has written to hospital trusts, doctors and patients warning the disruption is likely to last longer than expected.

The problem affects food supplies that are given to patients via a tube, known as total parenteral nutrition, or TPN (File image)

In the letters, passed to HSJ, Dr Fowler said a national incident management team had been set up and the issue had been ‘formally designated’ an emergency incident under the Civil Contingencies Act ‘at the highest level in view of the risk’ within the NHS.

Wendy Preston, head of nursing practice at the Royal College of Nursing, said: ‘By raising the alarm, this shortage should now get the urgent attention it deserves.

‘The Health Service and the regulator must confirm how long they anticipate this situation will last.

‘It is vital these types of products are regulated effectively.

‘There needs to be clear communication to staff so nurses can give patients and their families the reassurance that they will receive the vital treatment they need.’

A spokesman for Calea said: ‘We apologise to patients and their families for the distress caused. We are fully committed to working with the MHRA and the NHS action group to return to usual and reliable supply levels as quickly as possible during this challenging period.’

An NHS spokesman said: ‘The NHS is working hard to minimise disruption to patients and ensure they are kept up to date, while supporting Calea to find a solution to the issue.’ 

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