The NHS in north Cumbria is working to overcome the challenges presented by a national shortage of a number of chemicals vital for processing biochemical tests.

The Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche, which is a major supplier of chemicals to NHS trusts across the country, encountered significant problems this week in fulfilling its orders following a relocation to a new warehouse facility.

The issue, which is affecting NHS trusts across the country, is also causing delays to some tests at the North Cumbria Integrated Care (NCIC) NHS Foundation Trust.

A spokeswoman for the NCIC trust confirmed last week that the national supply issues have led to some delays in tests being carried out across north Cumbria.

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

The spokeswoman stressed that: “Roche are working urgently to resolve this.

“We are doing everything we can to reduce the impact on our patients, including working locally with other NHS organisations to share these chemicals wherever we can. Unfortunately, this means that some tests are delayed however we are prioritising all urgent tests.”

A statement from 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".