More than 500 packs of donated blood thrown away after processing plant in Sheffield closes

Hundreds of litres of donated blood have been thrown away since a processing plant in Sheffield closed, it has emerged.

Monday, 9th October 2017, 12:22 pm
Updated Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 9:10 am
More than 500 packs of blood were discarded

The manufacturing department at the Longley Lane blood centre, near the Northern General Hospital - where donations are separated into their constituent parts - closed at the beginning of September.

Services previously provided there and at a plant in Newcastle, which also shut as part of NHS cost-cutting measures, are now carried out at a single site in Manchester.

The Sheffield processing department closed at the beginning of September

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NHS Blood and Transport, which runs the service, has revealed 520 packs of red blood cells were discarded in the three weeks after the Sheffield facility closed, due to issues with how donations arriving there were handled.

A standard donation of blood is 470ml and the discarded packs came from across the region now served by Manchester.

The blood service claims the problems are being ironed out and did not affect supplies to hospitals, with more than 30,000 units of red blood cells being processed during the same period.

But one employee says the wastage could have been avoided altogether had bosses listened to staff's fears about the shake-up's impact.

The Sheffield processing department closed at the beginning of September

"Those people who have given their time for free to donate blood will not be happy so much has been discarded," said the worker, who asked to remain anonymous.

"We as employees raised these concerns before and during the consultation period about closing the Sheffield centre, but they didn't seem to take any notice of what we had to say."

He added that a shortage of vehicles also meant the NHS was shelling out more on private transport to shift blood stocks across the region since the closures.

Greg Methven, NHSBT's director of manufacturing and logistics, said: "There were delays with processing some donations at the Manchester blood centre after we first consolidated processing from Sheffield. We’ve made changes to how we work and the issues are being resolved.

"The delays were a result of donations not being prioritised appropriately when they arrived. This led to 520 packs of red blood cells being discarded over a three-week period. This did not affect our ability to supply red blood cells or specialist blood components to hospitals. No specialist components were lost.

"More than 30,000 units of red blood cells have been processed in the same period and we have maintained our excellent service levels to hospitals. There were no difficulties in transporting the blood to Manchester."

He added that moving blood processing services in Sheffield and Newcastle to Manchester would save £1.4 million a year and improve the service to hospitals and patients.

He described the round-the-clock manufacturing service in Manchester as a 'major improvement' on the previous arrangement where all three manufacturing departments in the region had an on-cal service.

"We're incredibly grateful to everyone who generously gives up their time to donate blood. Blood donation saves lives and we look forward to seeing our Sheffield donors at their next appointment." he added.

The Longley Lane blood centre is due to close completely in 2020, when stock-holding facilities there and in Leeds are replaced by a new one near Barnsley.

The blood service says donations in Sheffield will not be affected, with a new home to be found in the city for the local mobile blood donation team.