Blood Cuts Will Harm Patient Care

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Patient care in West Yorkshire will be under threat if plans for swingeing cuts to the blood service in Leeds go ahead, the Unite union warned yesterday.

Unite has asked the National Blood Service (NBS) to rescind plans to axe 45 staff in donor testing and records in November, with a further 40 redundancies in the blood processing unit by May next year.

If the cuts go ahead, all that will remain will be a stock holding unit, which Unite believes will be insufficient for Leeds – which has the largest teaching hospital in the country – and also for surrounding hospitals. This will mean that emergency blood supplies will then come from Sheffield, Manchester and Newcastle.

Terry Cunliffe, Unite’s lead officer for health in Yorkshire, said: ‘At best, this will lead to a delay in the patient receiving this life-saving unit. At worst, the patient will not receive it and they may pay with their lives. Simply put, an emergency product is just that. It is needed now, not in three hours time, as the patient might not survive that long.

‘The nationwide consolidation by the NBS has already caused problems in the Midlands and South West, where there have been a plethora of hospital complaints about the fact that blood requested has been unavailable. There have been “patient adverse events” i.e. where blood is unavailable for the patient who needs it.

‘Also there have been incidents where planned surgery has been cancelled due to the unavailability of blood and blood products.’

Unite is concerned that these cuts to a frontline service are planned when administrative costs have spiralled. For example, nationally the blood service had three directors, costing £390,000 a year in 2005 – this has now soared to more than a dozen top executives, clocking up more than £1.5 million annually!

Unite is calling on the NBS’s director of patient services, Clive Ronaldson, to put the Leeds cuts on hold, pending further talks with the union.

Earlier this year, Unite voiced concern that the NBS plans for a consolidation of blood services in England and Wales would cause problems relating to increased workloads and the supply of blood which had to travel over long distances.

• The family of a Nottingham man who was refused emergency transport to hospital has lodged an official complaint to the East Midlands Ambulance Service (Emas). Emas has apologised to the family of 72-year-old Charles Brewster who died from a heart attack.

His wife Brenda called the emergency services when her husband lay on the kitchen floor of their home in Bulwell after collapsing. But an Emas operator told her the call did not warrant a ‘high priority’ response.

Charles Brewster died last November while waiting for paramedics to arrive. Emas has admitted the call should have been given a higher priority. It said in a statement: ‘It was classified as a category C call and passed to a control nurse. We feel that on the basis of the information we received the initial call should have been upgraded in the first instance as a category B call – serious.’

Brewster’s daughter, Sarah Colton, said angrily: ‘He had Parkinson’s disease, he’d been in remission from cancer, he had heart disease, thyroid problems. He used to fall regularly. When the time was there when we needed an ambulance, we couldn’t get one. He was a wonderful man, he’d do anything to help anybody, he was such a gentle man.’