Finance

BD hikes production at Plymouth plant to combat blood tube shortage

Global medical manufacturer Becton Dickinson is increasing production of collection tubes at its vast Plymouth factory after a shortage meant the NHS had to cancel blood tests.

The US-owned company, which employs more than 600 people in Plymouth, makes Vacutainer blood collection tubes at the 27-acre site on the edge of the city.

But a Covid-related surge in demand, coupled with with global transportation delays and shortages of raw materials has meant there is a dearth of tubes for the NHS – resulting in cancellation of non-urgent blood tests.

South West Manufacturing news

Becton Dickinson, nowadays known simply as BD, said it has increased production at its Plymouth facility by 20% to tackle the shortfall.

The company has also received special approval to import millions of blood collection tubes into the country, which are normally only authorised for use outside the UK.

A BD spokesperson said: “BD is doing everything we can to help the NHS care for patients in the UK by maximising production at all of our global manufacturing facilities that make blood tube products, expediting shipments and importing millions of units from other regions of the world to the UK. We expect the situation to stabilise and recover through September, based on the volume of tubes we are supplying to the UK.”

The NHS in England and Wales has had to stop all non-urgent blood tests because of the shortage of collection tubes and won’t restart them until at least September 17. The NHS Devon Clinical Commissioning Group has reassured patients that vital blood tests will still be carried out.

BD’s Plymouth plant makes all its blood collection tubes for the UK and global market outside of the USA. The firm’s American factory serves the US.

BD stressed its “top priority” is to help the NHS return to normal blood testing volumes as quickly as possible and had begun delivering an additional 9million tubes in the past week.

A spokesperson said: “Working closely with UK authorities, BD has requested and received exceptional use authorisation to import BD blood tubes into the UK that are approved for use in other regions of the world, such as the United States.”

The spokesperson said that recent improvements to the Plymouth factory, in Belliver Way, Roborough, had increased production capacity by 20%, which will help alleviate the backlog of orders.

Worldwide, BD has produced more than 700million additional blood tubes this year versus 2020 and nearly 150million more tubes than 2019’s pre-pandemic levels.

“Over the next year, we anticipate producing the most BD Vacutainer blood collection tubes in the company’s history and will continue to increase production in future years,” the spokesperson said.

BD said the Covid-19 pandemic had created huge changes in the types and volumes of tests being done, which in turn created the most unpredictable demand BD has seen in 70 years of producing products.

Business Live’s South West Business Reporter is William Telford. William has more than a decade’s experience reporting on the business scene in Plymouth and the South West. He is based in Plymouth but covers the entire region.

To contact William: Email: [email protected] – Phone: 01752 293116 – Mob: 07584 594052 – Twitter: @WTelfordHerald – LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com – Facebook: www.facebook.com/william.telford.5473

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“Both health care systems and manufacturers are balancing demand and production to respond to these changes,” the spokesperson said. “ It has been difficult for customers to predict the types and quantities of blood tubes they will be using month to month, which in turn affects manufacturers’ abilities to meet demand for specific products.

“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. Raw material suppliers are also challenged to keep up with demand for materials and components.”


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