Inquiry urged into foreign blood sales

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The Independent Online

Stephen Dorrell, the Secretary of State for Health, is to be challenged over the sale of British blood products abroad after an Independent investigation.

The Liberal Democrats are to demand a full inquiry by the Government and by the National Blood Authority which runs the blood service in England and Wales.

The Independent found the blood products made by Bio Products Laboratory, the commercial arm of the NBA, offered for sale in Turkey at four times the price paid by some British hospitals.

The finding shocked donors who have received repeated assurances from the NBA that any surpluses were not sold for commercial gain.

David Alton, Liberal Democrat MP for Liverpool Mossley Hill, is to raise the matter with Mr Dorrell on Monday at a meeting previously arranged to discuss proposals for amalgamating or closing some parts of the blood service. Mr Alton and Alex Carlile, Liberal Democrat health spokesman, are also to table an Early Day Motion in the Commons "deploring the trade and profiteering in blood" and contrasting this approach "with that of the donors who give generously and altruistically".

Speaking after a visit to the Liverpool blood centre which is threatened with closure, Mr Alton said the fact that donors had been left unaware of the way blood products were sold overseas was "symptomatic of the deceptive and incompetent ways of the authority".

The national blood service is awaiting a decision from Mr Dorrell on recommendations from the NBA to scale down the work of five out of 15 regional centres aimed at making the service more efficient.

Internal documents have described the process as "closure" of the five although the authority recently angrily denied this.

Sue Kilroe, a Liverpool donor, said yesterday that she had taken NBA reassurances that profits were not made from the sale to mean that no one profited.

"You want to help people when you give blood but it seems somebody else is gaining from it other than the people who should be," she said.

In several parts of the country yesterday, donors met to discuss plans for a campaign for "informed consent" by donors before blood products could be sold overseas.

Blood products include Factor 8 used for treating haemophiliacs and albumin used to treat burns. Little whole blood is now used in medicine.

The National Blood Authority has said that foreign sales bring income back into the service and that the alternative would be to burn surpluses.