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Massive Opposition To Privatisation Of The NHS Blood Service

Unite, Britain's biggest union, will meet with Linda Hamlyn, chief executive of the NHS Blood Service, as the union releases an independent poll of 18,000 people showing that 74 per cent oppose the privatisation of any part of the blood service.

Unite will tell Linda Hamlyn that:

"Whether it is the frontline or the back office,  privatisation of any part of the blood service contaminates the whole of the blood service."

The union will demand that the chief executive gives a 'copper bottomed' guarantee that there will be no further privatisation of the service. The poll also showed that 70 per cent of those who opposed privatisation had either given blood or had considered giving blood.

The Department of Health is currently leading a review into ways the NHS Blood Service could cut costs. As part of the review the Department of Health is talking to private providers. Unite has repeatedly asked for clarity on the future of the blood service, but both the National Blood Service and the Department of Health have failed to rule-out privatisation of parts of the blood service despite massive public opposition.

Unite national officer, Jennie Bremner, said:

"Whether it is the frontline or the back office, privatisation of any part of the blood service contaminates the whole of the blood service. The people of this country are overwhelmingly opposed to privatisation. We expect the chief executive, Linda Hamlyn, to give us a ‘copper bottomed’ guarantee that there will be no plans to allow private companies to profit from the blood service. It is totally wrong to allow private sector companies to profit from men and women who freely donate their blood to help others. The message is clear, the people of this country say no to blood money."

The NHS Blood and Transplant Service (NHSBT) is a success story. Its specialist nurses collect blood from volunteer donors and then the service ensures it reaches the patients that need it. Donors help save the lives of hundreds of thousands of people every year; cancer patients, accident victims and women giving birth who develop complications. It also co-ordinates the 24-hour organ matching and allocation service which arranges our much needed organ transplant service.

It is not the case that the NHSBT is ‘ineffective’ or ‘inefficient’. Its last annual report showed the service “met more than 99.9 per cent of all product requests” and it has “implemented efficiencies which helped to reduce the cost of a unit of red cells from £140 to £130” – this is a fall in cost of over 7 per cent.

On 16 February the Health Service Journal learned that the Department of Health's commercial directorate held talks with private providers about running parts of the NHS Blood and Transplant service. Capita and DHL are understood to be interested in taking over parts of the service.

The poll is based on the responses of some 143,000 people polled by Mass1, an independent research organisation.

A similar study conducted in New Zealand found that there was opposition to profit being made from blood, with 52 per cent of donors unlikely to continue donating if this occurred.

New Zealand study:

Source: Unite

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