Donors the target to receive junk mail

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The National Blood Authority yesterday refused to rule out the possibility of Britain's 1.8 million blood donors being sent promotional mail through the post from private companies.

There had been speculation that, with its fiftieth anniversary next year, the NBA would give out its private mailing list of donors to companies after a request from McVitie's biscuits. Donors would then be deluged with promotional mail from companies which sponsored# the NBA. Labour's Health spokeswoman, Tessa Jowell, had criticised the "commercialisation" of the suggested move.

The NBA dismissed the idea of giving out the mailing addresses but admitted that leaflets from companies may be inserted into their letters to donors.

Although they had been speaking to several companies about potential business ventures, only McVitie's had requested access to the mailing list - a request the NBA immediately refused.

Tom Kelly, an NBA spokesman, said last night: "The confidentiality between the donor and the blood service is total.

"But we're not ruling out the possibility of leaflets. We would need to see how our donors felt about the idea. It's nothing to do with money, it's about raising our profile."

Both Ribena and McVitie's have expressed interest in giving free samples to blood donors. In letters leaked yesterday, both companies sought extra publicity from leaflets enclosed with NBA correspondence.

However, the two firms denied asking for access to the NBA database.

Tess Jowell last night accused McVitie's, Ribena and the NBA of backtracking. "I hope they will think again and not engage in further discussions like this without the consent of the donors.

"Donors come to give blood, not to be at the end of a marketing pitch."

News analysis, page 15.