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Numerous NHS trusts have indicated they are relying heavily on the private sector to help recover their elective capacity amid the pressures caused by coronavirus.

However, NHS England figures show that the health service is actually struggling to increase activity carried out in the independent sector, with some providers prioritising private-paying patients for limited capacity.

Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group told HSJ it was attempting to increase the use of independent providers to help reduce waiting lists, although private hospitals are also facing staff limitations, reducing the amount of capacity they can offer the NHS.

University College London Hospitals has also said it is attempting to increase private capacity, although it said that it was inevitable that “as their referral base recovers they will have less capacity to offer the NHS”.

Despite the constraints, HSJ analysis of hospital episode statistics indicates that as of May, independent sector activity was still a little below pre-pandemic levels, with no growth about normal to begin elective catch-up.

This is despite national and local NHS officials saying they want to make the best use of IS capacity.

Red alert

The worldwide shortage of blood collection tubes has prompted NHS England to say non-essential blood tests should be stopped.

Trusts and GPs have been told to prioritise genomic tests over others, in NHSE guidance issued today.

Genomics for testing of unwell neonates, prenatal screening, and cancer diagnoses are “a high priority”. Blood collection tube stock “should be used for these tests and should be prioritised accordingly to allow these tests to continue uninterrupted”.

Meanwhile, GPs and trusts should reduce “non-clinically urgent” tests to safeguard stocks of the crucial diagnostic products. NHSE said testing levels should be “reviewed to ensure a reduction in non-clinically urgent testing”.

The guidance comes after HSJ revealed that manufacturer Becton Dickinson last month apologised for disruptions to supplies that it said stem from global demand, logistic challenges and problems obtaining raw materials and components.