Kent

Brexit halt to blood donor sessions amid traffic fears reversed

Operation Stack Image copyright PA
Image caption The NHS fears Operation Stack may be enforced on the M20, when part of it is closed to accommodate waiting lorries

A move to cancel blood donor sessions because of fears Brexit will cause major traffic congestion at Channel ports has been reversed.

NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) had said sessions would not take place in Dover and Folkestone for the two weeks before Britain leaves the EU on 29 March and the six weeks afterwards.

It followed concerns congestion could stop teams reaching donation venues.

But the Department of Health did not agree and said sessions would continue.

Dover MP Charlie Elphicke had condemned the move as creating unnecessary worry.

And after NHS Blood and Transplant announced the move, BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg said she had been told the decision was not cleared nationally and would be "reversed straight away".

Image copyright NHS
Image caption Health chiefs said blood stocks will not be affected

Mr Stredder had said it was possible Operation Stack could be brought in after Brexit - when part of the M20 is closed to hold lorries waiting to cross the Channel.

"This could lead to significant traffic in Kent and may prevent donation teams from reaching venues in the area or a donation leaving," he said.

But he said the move would only affect six sessions and about 2,700 sessions would be held elsewhere across the country.

He said: "There will be no effect on blood stocks or on our ability to supply hospitals."

But a spokesman for the Department of Health said: "The Department does not agree with this course of action. We've discussed this issue with NHSBT and confirmed blood donations will continue as normal.

"We're grateful to all lifesaving blood donors who make an important contribution."

Criticising the move, Mr Elphicke said it was "ridiculous and irresponsible".

He said: "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?"

Jonathan Ashworth MP, Labour's shadow health secretary, said it was "shocking".

He said: "It simply beggars belief that Tory ministers still refuse to rule out no deal, despite the devastating impact it will have on patients."

Plans to tackle post-Brexit traffic queues were recently tested by the government.

Hauliers fear a no-deal Brexit will lead to queues of up to 29 miles.

The government said it had to "prepare for all eventualities... including a possible no deal".

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