Blood donor sessions in Kent ports axed over fears of Brexit transport gridlock

Sessions in Dover and Folkestone have been axed either side of March 29, NHS Blood and Transplant said Credit: NHSBT/PA

Blood donation sessions in Channel ports have been suspended before and after Brexit amid fears the local transport system could grind to a halt.

NHS Blood and Transport (NHSBT) said that sessions in Dover and Folkestone had been cancelled in the two weeks before March 29 and the six weeks afterwards.

Fears have been raised in recent months other the impact on Kent of a no-deal Brexit, with the Government preparing for heavy queues at ports and the Channel Tunnel if customs checks have to be re-introduced.

Mike Stredder, director of blood donation for NHSBT, confirmed that six sessions had been cancelled, out of around 2,700 countrywide in the same period, with “no effect on blood stocks or on our ability to supply hospitals”.

He said: “We have taken the decision to cancel donation sessions in Dover and Folkestone for a two-week period before and for six weeks after Britain’s exit from the EU.

“This is because in the event of issues at Calais and other freight ports, Operation Stack may be put in place by Highways England and the Kent Police.

“This could lead to significant traffic in Kent and may prevent donation teams from reaching venues in the area or a donation leaving.”

Earlier this month a leaked report suggested delays of as little as 70 seconds per truck at Dover could cause traffic jams which would take six days to clear.

They follow a Government exercise to trial the use of Manston airfield in Kent as a holding centre for trucks queuing to reach Dover in the event of disruption.

However, Calais boss Jean-Marc Puissesseau has said the port had been preparing for Brexit for a year and would be ready to cope when the UK leaves the EU on March 29, whether there is a deal or not.

Discussing the blood session cancellations, Labour’s Virendra Sharma, a Best for Britain supporter, said: “It is an absolute disgrace that the Government’s no-deal contingency planning is interrupting life-saving blood donations.

“The Government’s reckless behaviour could cost lives.

“The Prime Minister must put a stop to this madness and rule out a disastrous no-deal immediately.”

But Dover’s Tory MP Charlie Elphicke criticised the NHS move as “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?”

Shadow health secretary 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.”