Health unions yesterday accused the government of a ‘reckless gamble that could risk people’s lives’ over plans to close centres and axe 700 Blood Service jobs.
A joint statement, covering UNISON, Amicus, TGWU, RCN and GMB, added: ‘The unions are calling on management at NHS Blood and Transplant Service (NHSBT) to reconsider these drastic proposals or risk possible strike action.
‘The jobs are due to go over the next four years and processing blood will be stopped at seven of the ten sites serving England and north Wales, leaving just Bristol, Manchester and London to cope.
‘As a result, the service will lose the flexibility and responsiveness to short-term fluctuations in demand that local processing centres provide.
‘In addition the closures will mean blood products with a very short shelf life will have to be moved long distances from collection sites to processing centres and back again to issuing centres, leaving supply dependent on a highly congested and unreliable road network.’
Joint Union Staff Side Secretary, Bill Campbell warned: ‘Unions will not sit back and see lives put at risk because of these job cuts.
‘The plans represent a monumental error of judgement by NHSBT. The loss of 700 skilled staff could easily tip the service into crisis.
‘The number of blood donors has been falling over recent years, making it difficult for the service to meet the minimum blood stock levels defined as safe by the NHS.
‘It seems madness therefore for bosses to launch a cost-cutting exercise, and slash dedicated staff who deliver a vital life-saving service.
‘The cuts will leave massive holes in the coverage of processing centres, particularly in the Midlands and North East.
‘Depending on just three centres will also put patients in jeopardy in the event of an emergency situation.’
Staff Side Chair, Owen Granfield said: ‘We believe the bean counters obsession with cost savings could risk lives within the NHS – which is simply shameful.
‘The proposals will make patients dependent upon transporting rare or short lifespan blood products over long distances, including across the Pennines in winter and congested motorways around Cambridge and Birmingham.
‘We believe lengthening the transport links will also fit into their other agenda, privatisation. These proposals must be stopped.’
Amicus members have already indicated they are ready to take strike action and UNISON is also considering a ballot.