Matt Hancock steps in to block NHS blood donation cancellations blamed on Brexit
Matt Hancock has blocked plans by the NHS to cancel some blood donation sessions after health chiefs claimed a no-deal Brexit would force them to be scrapped.
The NHS announced earlier today that blood donation sessions in Dover and Folkestone would be cancelled in anticipation that staff may be left unable to reach donation centres if new customs arrangements at the ports cause tailbacks.
But the Health Secretary stepped in just hours later to block the proposals after it was revealed that his department had not been consulted beforehand.
NHS officials had planned to cancel appointments for two weeks prior to the 29 March exit date, and for a further six weeks after.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health confirmed the decision had now been reversed.
“This proposal was not cleared through the department,” they said. “We are stopping it right now. Blood donation will continue as usual."
NHS officials had earlier blamed the cancellations on traffic disruption caused by a potential no-deal Brexit.
Announcing the decision, a spokesperson for the NHS blood and transplant service had 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."
Pro-Brexit Dover MP Charlie Elphicke had hit out at the plans, tweeting: “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?”
Labour's Shadow Health Secretarty 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."