The NHS has declares national emergency over shortage of feed for babies and disabled patients 

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The NHS has declared a national emergency over shortage of feed for babies and disabled patients, with some patients being told to go to Accident & Emergency departments. 

Medics said vulnerable patients were being left starving for several days, with some being admitted to hospital because of malnutrition. 

Hundreds of NHS patients, including children, who depend on intravenous nutrition, have been experiencing delays in deliveries.

It follows an inspection by watchdogs which found manufacturers were failing to meet safety standards, and the presence of potentially fatal bacteria.

The NHS national patient safety director Dr Aiden Fowler has written to all NHS hospital trusts, and affected patients, warning that the incident has been designated as an emergency incident, under the Civil Continencies Act, at the highest level. 

British manufacturer Calea had already said the shortages could last up to four weeks. 

But the letter warns that the crisis could last far longer, outlining plans to ration the product to those most in need. 

The feed, which is used by vulnerable and disabled patients, in hospital and their own homes.

Parents said the situation was “terrifying” with some told to go to A&E if vulnerable chidlren were left too long without being fed. 

Hospitals have now been asked to review all patients receiving such intravenous feed to ensure only those deemed at high-risk are allocated the supplies, which are tailored to meet specific individual needs. Others will be allocated standard bags of nutrition, with extra supplements.

Emergency planners are now investigating whether supplies could be obtained from abroad, if shortages continue. 

In the letters from Dr Fowler, disclosed by Health Service Journal, he warns that the NHS is facing a “difficult balance” between the risks caused by the shortages, and the dangers of allowing production to continue, without safety improvements. 

The letter warns that an inspection by the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA),in June found that the process did not comply with their guidance, while routine monitoring identified presence of potentially deadly bacteria.

“These pathogens could cause serious health problems (including the possibility of fatalities), if exposed to products during the manufacture process,” it warns, though it says products currently in circulation carry no risk to patients. 

The letter to NHS trusts, dated 9 August, states: “We realise that the disruption presents a clinical risk and have been careful to try and balance the risk of contamination and sepsis against the risk of supply disruption, which we know has already had significant impact.”

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 is anticipates this situation will last.

“It is vital these types of products are regulated effectively and where standards fall below the requirement it can be detrimental to patient care.

“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.”

Senior doctors said families have been left “distraught” by the crisis, with some admitted to hospital for days for nutrition they would normally receive at home.

One parent said patients were “effectively being starved” with others saying they had been left “light headed and poorly” after being given alternative nutrition.

A spokesperson for Calea said: “Following a routine MHRA inspection in June 2019, we were directed to change the process by which we add trace elements and vitamins to our parenteral nutrition bags, in order to align with latest standard industry practice.  As a result, the time taken to produce bags has increased considerably and this has, unfortunately, affected the supply to patients.

“On July 22,  Calea informed the NHS of a voluntary decision to impose a production capacity restriction in order to restore a reliable supply and simultaneously committed to review the situation in four weeks’ time.

“Supplying patients is Calea’s number one priority and 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.”



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