Mobile blood service to be taken off the roads of East Anglia

The NHS Blood and Transplant bloodmobile.

The NHS Blood and Transplant bloodmobile. - Credit: Archant

The service that coordinates lifesaving blood donor sessions in East Anglia was last night urged to rethink plans to cancel a valued mobile service.

Officials from NHS Blood and Transplant revealed that three bloodmobiles, which serve mainly rural areas in Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, were set to be taken off the road following a review.

Campaigners last night called the decision 'short-sighted' and raised fears that the move would lead to a reduction in the number of people giving blood.

The Norfolk van, which contains three beds, visits 23 locations across Norfolk at least twice a year and is used by 2,000 people on an appointment only basis.

However, bosses from NHS Blood and Transplant said the cancellation of the blood mobile service would enable the organisation to put more staff and equipment at larger sessions in village halls and other public venues.

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Final bloodmobile visits will be held from November onwards in Mattishall, Bawdeswell, Horsford, Reepham, North Elmham, Coltishall, Blofield. Aldborough, Poringland, Hemsby, Martham, Saxlingham Nethergate, Brooke, Corpusty, Carlton Colville, Oulton Broad, Wells, Lowestoft, Thorpe St Andrew and Wymondham.

Officials from the blood and transplant service said donors affected by the changes were being written to and there were existing blood donation sessions within 10 miles of the mobile sessions.

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Keith Swetman, of Barton Turf, near Stalham, who has donated more than 100 units of blood over the last 50 years, spoke of his frustration that the mobile service at Coltishall was being cancelled and that users had not been consulted on the plans.

The 69-year-old added that some people were not able to travel to alternative sessions in North Walsham, Aylsham or Stalham and some found attending large blood donor sessions too daunting.

'I understand that there is a finite pot of money, but at the end of the day they are always calling out for new blood donors and they are putting people off from giving blood and it affects the older people who do not have a car. It is short-sighted and any saving will be minute,' he said.

Campaigner Sue Little, 46, from Hemsby, near Great Yarmouth, who needed 127 units of donated blood following complications during the delivery of her daughter Tamsin in 1997, yesterday said she feared that the decision was a 'backward move' for the service.

'Giving blood is so important and there are so many people that rely on blood donations to save lives like myself. These mobile services may be the only ones that people can get to.'

'We need to promote and make it more accessible for people to donate. If they [the bloodmobiles] were not being used or no one was turning up I could understand that. However, when there is a campaign for people to give blood for the first time, it is not a very positive move forward,' she said.

Officials from NHS Blood and Transplant said the changes followed a review of collection plans to meet patient needs and the demand for blood from NHS hospitals, while also providing a good service to its loyal donors.

Jackie Morgan, regional operations manager for NHS Blood and Transplant said more money would be available to spend on front-line patient care as a result.

'Like any organisation that receives money from the public purse, we have a responsibility to deliver our services as efficiently and effectively as possible so that more money is available to spend on front-line patient care. We work closely with hospitals so that we plan to collect only what patients need. By making some changes to our session timetables and where we hold our sessions we will be able to run a more efficient service, while still meeting the needs of patients.'

'We hope that donors will continue to give blood as their donations save lives. However, we understand that some donors may decide to stop donating, as it may become less convenient for them to give blood. If they choose to do so, we would like to thank them for all the lives they have helped save already and all the time they have given up to donate blood,' she said.

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