NHS cancels blood donation sessions amid concerns over Brexit lorry gridlock
Blood donation sessions have been cancelled after concerns were raised over traffic gridlock in Kent as a result of a no-deal Brexit.
The NHS confirmed they were cancelling sessions in Dover and Folkestone for two months in anticipation that staff may be left unable to reach donation centres if new customs arrangements at the ports cause tailbacks.
Sessions in the two towns will be cancelled for two weeks prior to the 29 March exit date, and for a further six weeks after.
A spokesperson for the NHS blood and transplant service said: "This is because in the event of issues in Calais and other freight ports, this could lead to significant traffic in Kent and may prevent donation teams from reaching or leaving venues in the area."
“We will hold replacement sessions at other locations and we will still be in a position to provide the necessary blood to hospitals.”
They added: "This will only effect six blood donation sessions. We will also hold replacement sessions. We will also hold replacement sessions at alternative sessions to compensate. There will be no effect on blood stocks or on our ability to supply hospitals."
Earlier this month the Department for Transport commissioned dozens of lorries to arrive at Manston airfield in Kent and drive to Dover to simulate a contingency plan for disruption at the ports.
Ministers plan to use the airfield as a lorry park to prevent traffic jams along the A256 if extra customs checks imposed as a result of a no-deal Brexit create tailbacks along the route.
The announcement comes a day after several supermarket chains said they were "extremely concerned" that delays at the ports could harm the supply of fresh food.
Donors with existing appointments are now being contacted to tell them their appointments have been cancelled.
Labour MP Virendra Sharma, speaking on behalf of the Best for Britain campaign, said: “It is an absolute disgrace that the Government’s no deal contingency planning is interrupting life-saving donations.
“The Government’s reckless behaviour could cost lives.
“The Prime Minister must put a stop to this madness and rule out a disastrous no deal immediately.”
Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: "Yet again we learn of more disastrous consequences of Theresa May’s hopeless mishandling of Brexit. It’s utterly shocking that blood donations in Kent have been cancelled.
"It simply beggars belief that Tory ministers still refuse to rule out no deal, despite the devastating impact it will have on patients."
But Dover and Deal MP Charlie Elphicke, a strong Brexit supporter, tweeted: "This is ridiculous and irresponsible. Both the ports of Dover and Calais have said they will keep traffic flowing. Why not see what happens first before creating worry completely unnecessarily?"
The Department for Transport have been approached for a comment.