Lancashire NHS Blood Donation Service is being bled dry

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An investigation by the Lancashire Evening Post, using Freedom of Information requests, found the NHS-run Blood Donation Service has had to pay out a total of £335,000 hiring venues to put on sessions across the county.

Some of the highest charges incurred include £893 for a 9.5 hour session at the BAE Lightning Club in Warton, £600 for a five-hour 45-minute session at the Avenham Suite in Preston’s Guild Hall, and £600 for a four-hour 45-minute session at The Great Hall at Mains.

MP Lindsay Hoyle

MP Lindsay Hoyle

A £1,194 charge for a four- hour 45-minute session at South Ribble Council’s Civic Centre has also been logged, but has been disputed by council chiefs.

Donors and community leaders have slammed public and private bodies for making money out of the service.

Although donation bosses said they are “happy” with the support offered by venues, they also aim to reduce costs where possible.

Barbara Blanche, lead donor relations manager for Lancashire, said: “When looking at blood donation sessions and venues, there are several key areas that need to be looked at in detail.

“As well as the overall cost, we need to ensure the venue is safe, suitable for the donors, with enough space for the equipment and accessible for all with the necessary facilities.

“We also need to make sure that it is a pleasant experience for the donors who volunteer their time in order to help save lives.

“Our team works across Lancashire with all of the venues to secure the best rates and we are happy with the support they have shown us over the years.

“The average cost per session is around £239 which takes into account all of our needs. The costs for the larger venues may be necessary to ensure our sessions are held in prime locations, whereas the smaller village halls may need the funds to keep up repairs.”

In 2009, the total cost of room hire was £73,375.26, in 2010 £83,485.71, in 2011 £75,227.26, in 2012 £85,596.40 and the latest figure for 2013 is £17,854.11.

Derek Rogerson, 76, of Bamber Bridge, has been donating blood since he was 18. He said he was shocked at the charges.

He said: “Ever since I’ve been giving blood I’ve been under the illusion that the venues were hired for free, or at a nominal cost.

“I’m quite shocked to hear the figures for Lancashire, which, when replicated nationwide, will run into the millions.

“I think it’s terrible that councils or private businesses are looking to make money out of such a vital service.”

Chorley MP Lindsay Hoyle said: “This figure is really surprising. I know that some community clubs need to cover their costs to make sure that they can open their doors and allow people to give blood easily in their community.

“But it is simple, we all need blood and we never know when we might need a transfusion.

“So everyone should do it their bit – donors turn up in their own time and we should encourage town halls and local community centres to open their doors for free, or at worst only charge a nominal fee.”

Deepdale Councillor Terry Cartwright, who gave blood for 40 years, has criticised Preston Council for their policy.

He said: “Everyone’s hard pushed at the moment, but Preston Council should not be making a profit out of blood donations at the Guild Hall.”

Using the latest figures from 2012, the venue hire alone adds £1.95 to the cost of every donation, with costs of nursing, transportation and administration on top.

Coun Tom Burns, cabinet member for leisure at Preston Council, said: “The standard fees and charges are advertised on the council’s website every year. The blood transfusion service, along with any other charitable organisation hiring the Guild Hall, was charged a subsidised amount.

“This meant that the full cost of hire, including staffing, heating, lighting and security was not met.

“In October 2012, the council was informed that the service had found an alternative location and would not be returning to the Guild Hall.

“The Guild Hall is part of the city council, but it is also a business and, as such, must pay its own way.

“The recent cuts from central Government make that an even harder target in these tough economic times.”

The management of the BAE Lightning Club, which is separate to the aerospace giant, was uncontactable, and The Great Hall at Mains declined to comment.

South Ribble Council declined to comment on the pricing policy or whether it would consider running events for free or at cost.

Coun Phil Smith said: “Giving blood is vitally important. We’re pleased that blood donation sessions are held at the Civic Centre and we’re happy to support the blood service.”