Gag on blood workers

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Staff employed by the blood transfusion service that covers London and the South-east have been warned not to speak to the media or they risk disciplinary action, writes Celia Hall.

Following the discovery of faulty blood bags last month, which left one man critically ill with septicaemia and caused 7,000 pints of blood to be destroyed, a memo was sent to senior managers requesting them to inform staff of the rules.

The memo from Dr Marcela Contreras, zonal director designate of the National Blood Service for London and the South-east, has been leaked to the Labour Party.

Tessa Jowell, Labour health spokeswoman, said yesterday the gag was "further evidence of a climate of fear in the blood service. Yet it was only through staff speaking out that the sheer scale of the fiasco over the 'Tuta' blood bags was revealed".

Ms Jowell said that Stephen Dorrell, Secretary of State for Health, had promised a new agenda for the health service. "If greater openness and public accountability were to be a part of that he would act immediately to lift the gags," she said.