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Privatisation threat to the blood service?
NHS workers in NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) were amazed to find themselves targeted in a series of carefully orchestrated leaks from the Department of Health, informing us that the government was looking at privatising 'key elements' of the Blood Service. Incredibly they have branded NHSBT as a 'quango'.
Various journalists and blogs close to the Tory party quoted Department of Health 'sources' to the effect that they had invited firms such as Capita and DHL to look over the "transport and storage of blood", whatever that might mean. The only bit of NHSBT explicitly ruled out was the actual collection of blood carried out in church halls, factory canteens and town halls up and down the land by nurses and donor carers.
Any privatisation represents a grave threat to the staff of NHSBT - after all it was the National Audit Office who found the biggest single saving from privatisation was in the pensions of the privatised workers - but also to the service provided. Blood donors would rightly be horrified to see shady Tory spivs turning a profit from their freely given donations.
NHSBT is actually a daily and unsung miracle - every day thousands of people turn up to give a pint of blood, for no payment. That blood is tested and processed to high standards, and given to the patients who need it - irrespective of their wealth or means - just on the basis of clinical need.
Thanks to the way blood is processed in the blood centres, one unit can treat three patients - each pint of blood can be split into red cells, platelets and plasma, and given to patients with different needs. It is also tested for hepatitis and HIV. It is not something that is open to cost-cutting.
Both the main unions in NHSBT, Unite and Unison, have responded immediately. The workforce are the guardians of this precious service - which actually pre-dates the NHS itself - and they will fight to preserve it for patients and donors.
By NHSBT workers
In The Socialist 16 March 2011:
Socialist Party news and analysis
Youth fight for jobs
Socialist Party workplace news
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party campaigns