Staff representatives from the National Blood Service (NBS) have written to chief executive, Linda Hamlyn, and to NBS board members, warning that privatisation of the NBS could have serious effects on the fragile relationship between the service and its donors.
Around three million UK citizens give their blood every year. Unite says it is the ultimate "big society" service but the essence of the service would be fundamentally altered if a profit-motive was introduced to any part of the service.
Unite is demanding a full written report from the NBS board setting out what discussions have taken place with potential bidders, what decisions have been made and what time scales there might be regarding possible privatisation.
The union also wants MPs currently scrutinising the Health and Social Care bill to look seriously at ways to preserve the NBS so that profit-making companies are not handed parts of the service to operate, arguing that the only motive for the service ought to be the collection and distribution of blood for the common good.
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 (see notes to editors).
Unite, Britain's biggest union, which represents staff working for the NBS, resolutely opposes any privatisation of the service arguing that it goes against the very ethos of giving blood.
Unite's regional officer, Owen Granfield said:
"On behalf of the staff working for the blood service who are very proud and dedicated, we have written to the chief executive of the NBS demanding to know just how far discussions with the private sector have progressed. Unite is not prepared to allow the private sector to profit from a voluntary service which was in existence even before the NHS was founded.
"People who give blood for free because they believe it's in the common good will be shocked to learn the Department of Health is considering allowing the private sector to profit from their blood. This is blood money and it is totally wrong.
"The very essence of the blood service is about people giving their blood for free to help and save lives. The blood service is always short of donors and privatisation could have serious effects on the fragile relationship between the service and voluntary donations."
Contact: Ciaran Naidoo on 07768 931 315
Notes to editors
Article published in the Health Service Journal on 16 February 2011More Articles by Unite - the union (T&G section) ...