BLOODY DISAPPOINTING! That’s the only way to describe NHS Blood and Transplant’s response to my request for an explanation as to why blood donors in Berwick upon Tweed, by far north Northumberland’s most populous town, have to travel between 35 and 60 miles to ‘surrender an armful’ and save a life.
This is the explanation I received from an NHSBT spokesperson:
“The impact of coronavirus means we are unfortunately having to cancel some blood donation appointments. These cancellations will not affect our ability to continue to supply the blood that patients need, blah-blah-blah. . .”
Did this NHSBT spokesperson read a word that I and my readers wrote? We asked why a big town like Berwick couldn’t host its own donor sessions! The spokesperson continued:
“On this occasion, spacing donors further apart to accommodate for social distancing means we have had to reduce the number of chairs at many venues. This means some of our blood donation sessions have been reduced, closed or temporarily relocated, z-z-z-z-z. . .
Wakey-wakey! The problem of which I spoke wasn’t caused by coronavirus: Berwick offered only one donor session in the whole of 2019, which was oversubscribed as soon as it was advertised. A source at the Wooler donor venue blamed the situation on repeated staff cuts. Not a word of this in the spokesperson’s bland reassurance:
“Where we need to cancel appointments for this reason we are prioritising donors with certain blood groups to make sure we can provide the blood that patients need. We are notifying donor of cancellations as early as we can. If we do not contact you your appointment should still be going ahead. We are very grateful for the time that donors give up and we apologise to those affected by these unavoidable changes. We thank them for their patience and hope they will re-book for a future date. Blood is always needed. If you have any further questions, please do get in touch.”
You bet your LIFE I have further questions! I told NHSBT that I would happily publish their reply so far bat that it nowhere near answered Eric Wood’s original complaint, which I reiterated:
“ I live in Berwick on Tweed and as a lifelong blood donor (102 pints donated) find myself with no blood donor sessions in Berwick (population 13,000) whereas Alnwick (round trip 60+ miles, pop. 8,000) & Wooler (34 miles, pop. 2,000) each have two sessions in the next six months. There was only one session in Berwick last year. Why?”
Two weeks ago I published Tweedmouth reader Eric’s complaint that he and others invariably have to make a 35-mile round trip to a school hall in Wooler at their own expense despite there being a fully functioning hospital within a mile of Eric’s home in Tweedmouth (CLICK HERE to read).
Upon reading Eric Wood’s story, another Eric – writer and columnist colleague Eric Musgrave from Etal – added his confirmation in the Comments section:
“My appointment on 25 May at Tweedmouth was cancelled and the earliest replacement date offered is 15 November in Wooler – that’s more than 22 weeks later. Ridiculous! When I worked in London, I was giving blood about three times a year.
“When I spoke to a nurse in Wooler about the infrequency of appointments [in Berwick] she blamed a series of staff cuts in recent years.”
A better, more positive response came from Berwick MP Anne-Marie Trevelyan’s office. “I contacted the Chief Executive’s office and they are looking into the matter,” wrote a staff worker.
“ I believe Anne-Marie also intends to contact them directly having discovered further issues connected to blood donor sessions in Berwick.”
Ms Trevelyan has been promised a reply from NHSBT “within 18 working days” but I will be surprised and horrified if the MP settles for that.
Watch this space.
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