LONDON, March 23 /PRNewswire/ -- The radical restructuring plans for the blood transfusion service in England and Wales, which threatens about 170 jobs, should be halted, Unite the union said today (Monday, 23 March).

The current round of threatened job cuts is on top of a similar number that have disappeared from the National Blood Service in the last two years.

Unite's call comes as it emerged that the new 'super centre' in Bristol is deferring taking on blood processing work from the Birmingham centre which is to cease processing next month. It is understood that Bristol has had difficulty coping with work already transferred from Southampton and Plymouth.

Unite said that the 'super centre' at Filton, north Bristol, cannot take on the Birmingham workload on time. As an interim measure, the Birmingham work is to be split three ways between Manchester, Colindale in north London and Brentwood in Essex.

Owen Granfield, Unite's Coordinator for the National Blood Service said: 'This means that blood donated in Birmingham and the West Midlands will be taken on a complex journey across half the country, often only to be returned back to Birmingham which is a major conurbation needing its own blood processing facilities.'

'We have continually warned that the new Filton 'super centre' was too big, and now it looks as if events have proved us right. We have written to the Director of Patient Services, Clive Ronaldson to ask him to urgently put similar plans on hold in Yorkshire and London.'

Under the blood service's strategic plan the Leeds centre's processing work will be split between Newcastle and Sheffield, while blood processing for north and south London will be centralised in Colindale.

Owen Granfield said: 'These are huge projects, dealing with a vital component of the NHS. The blood service's management must proceed carefully. If problems have emerged at Filton, let's call a halt on any more restructuring until we are sure that these very large centres are good value in terms of servicing the needs of patients.'

Notes to Editors:

1. Donated blood has to be processed before use. Processing entails the separation of red cells, platelets and plasma, each of which has its own therapeutic use. This processing means that one blood donation can treat three patients.

2. Red cells are typically used to support surgery or in the treatment of trauma. Platelets support patients through leukaemia treatments or clotting disorders, while plasma can be used to treat burns.

3. In 2007, the National Blood Service unveiled a drastic strategy of cutbacks and closures. After campaigns from union members in the service, this was scaled back in January 2008, although the Birmingham, Leeds and Tooting centres still stand to lose their blood processing under the modified strategy.

For further information, please ring: Owen Granfield, +44(0)7768693942. Karen Reay, National Officer, Health, +44(0)7798-531-004. David Fleming, National Officer, Health +44(0)7798-531013. Shaun Noble, Communications Officer (Health Sector), +44(0)20-7420-8951, +44(0)7768-693-940