Clinical testing capacity at hospital sites across north Cumbria has improved, as the local NHS trust continues to work to address national supply shortages.

National NHS supplies of a number of chemicals used in clinical biochemical testing were hit hard last week, after supplier Roche ran into difficulties.

The Swiss pharmaceutical company, a major supplier of chemicals to NHS trusts across the country, encountered significant problems following a relocation to a new warehouse facility.

Widespread issues were reported with testing capacity across NHS trusts the length of the country last week, with the North Cumbria Integrated Care (NCIC) NHS Foundation Trust being no exception.

However the situation has this week improved at north Cumbria's hospital sites, a spokeswoman for the NHS trust confirmed.

“Problems with an NHS supplier Roche has led to a temporary shortage in some of the chemicals, called reagents, we use to process tests," the spokeswoman said.

"Roche are working urgently to resolve this.

"We have been able to source some of the reagents we need and the situation has improved.

"We continue to do everything we can to reduce the impact on our patients, including working locally with other NHS organisations to share these reagents wherever we can."

There are however still delays to a number of non-urgent tests. "Unfortunately, the ongoing issues mean that some non-urgent tests are delayed as we continue to prioritise all urgent tests,” the spokeswoman added.

A statement released last week by Roche said that the company “deeply” regrets the dispatch delay.

Concerns are being expressed in some other parts of the country this week over continued supply issues and the continued impact on testing capacity.

The Bedford Independent reported on Wednesday that Bedford Hospital was not able to see non-urgent patients as a result of the supply issues, while the Manchester Evening News reported on Monday that GP practices were alerting patients to the possibility of non-urgent blood tests being cancelled in light of the continued shortages.

An update issued last week to NHS staff by the Medicine and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency noted that the “PCR coronavirus testing system” is unaffected by the shortages.

However, it outlined that in light of the shortages, NHS trusts were being advised to: “Preserve the remaining Roche reagent stocks for priority areas such as theatres delivering urgent and emergency care.”

The update added that the “overall aim is to reduce the impact on patient services and cancellation of tests and procedures should only be done as a last resort.”

The update also added that the Roche supply issue could be slated to last for two to three weeks, though hopes were raised that a resolution could be found sooner after “significant extra stock” had been identified, which was said to “reduce the likely impact on the NHS”.