Blood service staff warn of crisis after computer delay

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The Independent Online

Staff warned yesterday of a potential disaster in the blood service after a new national computer system was announced a year later than planned.

The National Blood Authority last week disclosed it had chosen British- based software house Savant Enterprises to provide a pounds 5m system which will for the first time unify bloodstock control. But the delay means the replacement of the existing patchwork of non-compatible computers in centres in England and Wales will not be completed until at least the end of 1997.

Blood service sources said the pressure of the implementation time-scale created the risk of potentially serious errors in the blood-coding process.

The Independent last week disclosed that bloodstocks at transfusion centres in England and Wales were running well below the 15,000-unit minimum level. By Friday there were only about 10,600 units.

The new system, to be known as Pulse, will be introduced at the same time as the service is undergoing a shake-up involving at least 300 job cuts. The processing and testing of blood is to be removed from five of 15 centres and concentrated at the remainder. Another difficulty is the need to incorporate an internationally-agreed 16-digit coding system rather than the current six digits.

Gary Barr, the National Blood Authority information technology manager, said the Savant solution was considered the best and would meet all safety and quality requirements.

Roger Kline, of the Manufacturing Science and Finance union, which represents some staff, said: "We don't believe they will be able to bring in the new computer system and coding in a manner which guarantees it will be working properly before the planned downgrading of the five sites."