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Letter: Blood changes may cost lives

I WELCOME Nick Cohen's criticism of the National Blood Authority's proposals ("A bad business of blood", 3 December). This new quango plans to condemn regional blood transfusion centres to slow death from haemorrhage by removing two of their main functions - the testing and processing of blood. Without these functions it will be easy to argue for closure.

In Oxford (one of the threatened centres) the existing blood transfusion service works so efficiently that 100 medical consultants have urged the Minister for Health to leave it intact. When an Oxford donor gives blood it is tested at the John Radcliffe Hospital to eliminate dangerous viruses and processed to separate out red cells, platelets and plasma. Blood transfusion staff liaise closely with donors on the one hand, and with obstetricians, surgeons and paediatricians on the other. When blood of a particularly rare sub-group is urgently and unexpectedly needed, donors are prepared to be called out in the night.

We have a service that is simple, personal and streamlined. The NBA proposes to replace this for financial savings that are disputed. In future blood from Oxfordshire donors is to travel 70 miles to Birmingham or Bristol for testing and processing and then 70 miles back to Oxford for use. Before the first leukaemia patient dies from platelets or bone marrow transplant that arrive too late, the NBA's proposal to cut a claimed pounds 10m per annum by centralisation must be re-assessed against the risk to human lives.

Dr Mercy Heatley