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Keep Your Blood Service Local

brum imcista | 23.06.2007 21:27 | Health | Workers' Movements | Birmingham

The National Blood Service in the UK is ploughing ahead with a hotly disputed strategy of reconfiguration. Directors plan to close blood processing and testing labs at 10 local centres in favour of just 3 supercentres in Bristol, Manchester and Colindale (London). 100s of technical staff - about half the lab workforce - face redundancy.

The reason given is the need to make savings, as the cost of each pack of red cells rises, and the NBS is unwilling to charge hospitals more. However the NBS will not disclose how much taxpayers’ money it spends on external management consultancy agencies... Short-sighted cost-cutting is the primary concern, not patients, hospitals, or the skilled and loyal workforce. The strategy was boasted about to the Financial Times before staff were told. An aging population means that transplants and the need for special platelets for chronic patients will rise. Staff could be trained in readiness for these new challenges but instead their skills and years, even decades, of service will be wasted.

The official line is that services which need to be close to hospitals will stay there, like the issue blood banks. Staff believe otherwise. A patient died this week waiting to be rushed a ‘washed’ platelet from the local centre. ’Washing’ is done by the processing lab - which is being centralised. 40% of samples crossmatched by our special investigations department are classed as ‘emergency’.

Hospitals could be forced to spend more on training their own haematology staff, larger storage capacity and reagents for their own testing. That’s really taking the ‘serve’ out of ‘service’!

There are fears about road congestion delaying the smooth flow of products around the country. There will be no northern centre east of the Pennines, and no centre for the west midlands and the second city. Police figures back up staff concerns about jams on long south-west transport routes.

The bosses claim that most of the job losses will be through natural wastage. Annual turnover figures will be cancelled out by having to recruit (and train) brand new workers at the supercentres, which existing staff are unable to relocate to, so these cuts will definitely feel real. The new centres will run on harsh 24 hour shifts to cope with the massive blood requirements of the UK’s health service.

Unsurprisingly no staff input to these plans has been accepted and industrial action is just around the corner.
Neither has there been any consultation with the public - all of us are potential recipients of freely donated blood. Donors are altruistic people and have a keen interest in the whole transfusion process. They are now being disrespectfully excluded.

Staff are speaking to donors, patients and the public on campaign street stalls to bring them up to speed. Leafleting, petitioning and demonstrations are getting the message out and making sure the NBS directors can’t throw us on the scrapheap quietly! The more media attention and sustained angry pressure from the NBS workers’ supporters the better. Morale is low but solidarity can help the staff carry on the fight.

You can help our cause by writing letters to both local and national newspapers.

Please also write on our behalf to the NBS chief executive:

Martin Gorham
Chief Executive
National Blood Service
Oak House
Read’s Crescent
Hertfordshire WD24 4PH

Thanks for your support.

brum imcista
- e-mail:


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23.06.2007 21:50

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