NHS sacks blood boss after `Independent' campaign

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The Independent Online
THE HEAD of the crisis-hit National Blood Authority was sacked yesterday as the Government published a damning indictment into the Tories' reform of the blood service.

Frank Dobson, the Secretary of State for Health, dismissed Sir Colin Walker without compensation after he had refused to resign as chairman of the troubled authority. In an announcement which vindicated an Independent campaign highlighting the crisis in the blood service, Mr Dobson expressed "concern" at its performance and said "those at the top had to take responsibility ... Both donors and staff deserve a new and better lead".

The Liverpool blood centre, which was the last to come under Sir Colin's axe, would be upgraded and could still be reprieved, he added. The Government ordered a report last August into the Liverpool centre and later widened its terms to include the whole service.

Yesterday's report by Professor John Cash said hospitals and clinicians believed the service had declined significantly since the National Blood Authority of England and Wales (NBA) was set up five years ago and launched a drive for "efficiency". Professor Cash, former head of the Scottish Blood Service, said the NBA had treated staff fears with "disdain" and management should be reviewed urgently. And in an apparent criticism of Tory policy, he noted: "A market-place may not be ideally suited to a service that relies on a gift relationship between healthy and sick."

Sweeping reforms saw the ending of blood processing at five out of the 15 regional centres. Liverpool was the last to transfer blood processing, to Manchester. But campaigners warned it was dangerous to process the blood supplies of 7 million people in the North at one centre.

Yesterday, Mr Dobson said it would have been too dangerous to stop the Liverpool closure last September, but promised that its future would be reviewed after a year. Maria Eagle, MP for Liverpool Garston, said they were confident of persuading the Government to restore full processing to the site. The fate of other centres, particularly Oxford and Cambridge, which also lost processing facilities to widespread clinical concern remained unclear yesterday.

Dr Evan Harris, for the Liberal Democrats, said the wider criticisms in the report confirmed that the Conservative "rationalisation" had been a disaster. "The service is now more inefficient than it was before Tory health ministers started meddling with it - the NBA spends nearly pounds 100m more now than it did three years ago, but delivers a poorly co-ordinated service that does not command public confidence."

Sir Colin will be replaced as chairman of the NBA by Mike Fogden, former chief executive of the Employment Service. An NBA spokeswoman said it had no comment to make.

Crisis, what crisis? page 2

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