HC Deb 28 January 1986 vol 90 cc780-1
3. Mr. Gale

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many operations were lost in the Canterbury and Thanet health authority area between 1 and 31 December 1985 as a result of the failure of the blood transfusion service to supply the Margate and Kent and Canterbury hospitals; why this failure to supply was allowed to occur; what steps will be taken to prevent a further seasonal blood shortage next Christmas; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Hayhoe

Due to a seasonal shortage of blood donors, the Canterbury and Thanet district health authority postponed 18 non-emergency operations over the Christmas period. The blood transfusion service will continue to make special efforts to encourage donors to come forward over the Christmas and new year periods in future.

Mr. Gale

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his reply, although he does not give the figure that I requested. I trust that that will be forthcoming later. My understanding is that 50 elderly people had their operations postponed as a result of the failure of the transfusion service. Will my right hon. Friend give an undertaking that next Christmas, not only locally but nationally, there will be an advertising campaign to ensure that this kind of shortage, which is eminently predictable, does not occur again?

Mr. Hayhoe

The figure that my hon. Friend requested was given. Eighteen non-emergency operations were postponed over the Christmas period by that health authority, and there was sufficient blood for all emergencies that might have arisen. I understand that historically there has been some pulling back by donors during the Christmas season, perhaps for the understandable reason that they are involved in other matters. Special appeal letters were issued, reminders were sent to regular donors, and there was special advertising. Those special attempts to get people to come forward and donate blood will continue in future.

Mr. Frank Cook

If, as the Minister says, the shortage of blood was seasonal, surely that was foreseeable. If so, why were operations scheduled when the blood for them could not be expected?

Mr. Hayhoe

The shortage was not of blood but of donors, and that shortage occurred only in this one region, which shows that the national blood transfusion service is a highly efficient and excellent organisation. I hope that the comments that have been made in the House this afternoon will in no way detract from the considerable public service that is provided by the transfusion service, nor from the public service of those who donate their blood. I hope that all hon. Members will encourage donors to come forward.