Monday, 15 June 2009

Today in 1667 - First documented human blood transfusion

The first fully-documented human blood transfusion was administered by Dr. Jean-Baptiste Denys, eminent physician to King Louis XIV of France, on June 15, 1667. He transfused the blood of a sheep into a 15-year old boy, who recovered. Denys performed another transfusion into a labourer, who also survived. Both instances were likely due to the small amount of blood that was actually transfused into these people. This allowed them to withstand the allergic reaction.

Read the Wikipedia entry

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Sunday, 14 June 2009

World Blood Donor Day - June 14th 2009

It's World Blood Donor Day, an annual day around the globe to celebrate the amazing gift of life that blood donation and transfusion gives to thousands of people every day, and especially to promote volunteer blood donation (as opposed to paid donors), as this ensures the safest supply of blood.

'If you call them, they will come...'




Testing a donor's blood pre-donation for haemoglobin levels in the olden days

'That wasn't so bad...'

This is what happens to your blood

In the past it used to be stored in glass jars, as these old Red Cross pictures show

The finished product

Pure human solidarity

Today and every day 1,700 people in the UK will receive a blood transfusion

Want to learn more? Click these links:

World Blood Donor Day

Find out how and where to give blood locally

Join the UK organ donor register

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Boiiiinnng! Donor services boss jumps for pastures greener

In 2008 NHS Blood & transplant took on a new Director of Blood Donation, Andy Young. Here's Andy.

Andy's previous experience was as a top boss at the O2 Arena. Here's the O2 Arena.

This certainly rose a few eyebrows - and sneers - among the writers of this blog. It is a worrying sign when NHSBT management think that a great candidate for a director is one from the commercial sector, with no experience of working in the Blood Service or even the NHS. What's more the O2 Arena is hardly one of the all-time great successes of the business world...

All signs pointed to yet another clueless chief. Sighs and headshakes all round from staff.

At the start of June 2009 the bitter ramblings of even the most cynical staff members have been trumped - just one year after settling into his office, barely time to warm the chill off his leather seat, Andy Young is off to a new, shinier job. Andy obviously favours the 'jack of all trades' approach to his CV, deciding now to try his hand at (or should that be dip his toe into...) the 2012 Olympics. Not exactly the poster boy for continuity!

If Andy Young wants to really make an impact as part of 2012 he's probably best off stepping out from behind the scenes and joining the athletes in the long jump or the high jump.

It's bad enough to have directors brought in from the private sector, where they have honed their skills of brutality and cold-heartedness, and touted as the perfect choice to manage a service based on altruism. But at the very least those working in the upper echelons of NHSBT need to have a passing interest in or concern for blood donation and transfusion. Andy Young's selfish desertion demonstrates that he had nothing of the sort. He must have been idly flicking through the job pages for a few months at least. Or was it ever anything more to him than a stop gap?

Andy Young welcomes prospective NHSBT director hopefuls via Hays management recruitment agency. Probably written by his secretary...

Anyone who felt the burning passion that some of us feel for the work we do would not be able to simply walk out the door at the whiff of something bigger and better in the shallow way that he has done.

Money well spent, bosses?

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Sunday, 17 May 2009

Birmingham Processing Lab 1965 - 2009

A tribute. Thousands of lives were saved by blood products from this lab. Colleagues and hospitals will feel the loss.

Please click on photos for large version

These are the centrifuges that spun blood at high speed to separate out the different types of cells. Now they are still.

This row of now-idle Compomat machines pressed the blood after it was spun to push the plasma into a separate bag from the red cells.

Industrial thermogenesis machine which froze plasma to below -40 degrees centigrade.

Lab technicians no more.

Morale is bad amongst those left at Birmingham centre.


Birmingham Processing closure solidarity protest

These pictures are of the staff of Birmingham Blood Centre, from the labs and from transport, protesting to show solidarity and anger on the day that Processing was transferred down to Filton, Bristol. 3rd April 2009.

Click on photos for large version


Thursday, 2 April 2009

Health and safety reps beat bosses' no chairs rule

The unpopular OTP ('Operational Transformation Project') working pattern imposed clunkily by NHSBT management on blood collection teams a few years ago has many flaws according to donor carer staff. One which caused great health concern, with a increasing rise in occupational health referrals, was the attempted removal of chairs for staff from donor sessions.

Union health and safety reps from across the staffside worked together and fought hard against this ruling, using the law as a weapon. A great coup was achieved by getting in the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) to carry out an inspection. The HSE is an under-funded body that rarely visits workplaces.

The HSE report released in March this year fully backed up what health and safety reps had been arguing. Following this blow to their authority management had no choice, in the light of hard evidence, but to accept the findings of the HSE's report and replace chairs. This is a fantastic victory achieved by union reps that will benefit collection teams everywhere.

Health and safety law can be a valuable tool for workers. Over the years union activists have pushed to make it rule in our favour. The fight to improve working conditions goes on constantly. At the extreme end unsafe working can kill and make people seriously ill. Each year more people die through their work than from war.

The ILO (UN International Labour Organisation) estimates that 337 million accidents occur on the job annually, while the number of people suffering from work-related diseases is close to 2 million. These mistakes amount to approximately 2.3 million deaths each year, with 650,000 of them due to hazardous substances – double the number of a few years ago.

Don't forget Workers Memorial Day, 28th April every year across the world. It is a day to remember those who have been killed by work, but also to fight for better health and safety in the present, as reps in NHSBT have been doing.

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Union official's last minute hot air

Last week (26/03/09) the Evening Mail ran this story covering the closure of Birmingham's blood processing, quality monitoring and NAT labs. Tomorrow will be their final day.

Please click for a larger readable version.

Read the story online here.

It is based on a press release from full time Unite officials. This blog has objections from the very first sentence which says: 'Union leaders are trying to halt controversial plans...'.

There can be no doubt that throughout this entire campaign 100% of the energy, sweat, tears and sleepless nights have been spent by unpaid union stewards, active members and their workmates. In fact there are quite a few well-remembered instances of union leaders and officials discouraging and obstructing NBS workers' campaigning efforts.

That is not to say that these officials have not been part of active struggles earlier in their lives, but in the case of the fight against NBS restructuring it is not true to say that they were part of it other than to make vague grand rhetorical statements for press releases.

Now this blog steps down from its soapbox to accept that the choice of wording in the first sentence was made by the journo. The real issue is - what good are statements like these after it is too late to save the Brum blood centre? More of a fight was needed a long time ago. As mentioned above, this was not made easy for us.

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Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Night shifts bad for workers' health - Supercentre runs 24 hours

It was reported in today's news that 37 women in Denmark have won the right to compensation after it was proven that working night shifts long-term was linked to them developing breast cancer.

This link was suspected as long ago as 2001. Read more in a report on the research done into it here.

Cancer is not the only health concern around night working. Humans are not nocturnal (we are diurnal, the opposite of nocturnal). Night shift work is believed to cause disturbed sleep, fatigue and digestive problems. There are possible increased risks of diabetes. Scientific studies have shown that sleep disruption can cause the body to produce less melatonin, an important sleep regulating hormone. And accident rates are significantly higher on the night shift than during the day.

This leaflet informs employers that workers are at more risk of accidents when working at night than during the day.

Knowing this, it is a shameful and dangerous step backwards for National Blood Service bosses to decide to centralise blood processing and reduce the number of regional labs. At these regional labs where local blood collections were received, the processing work could be completed in a day, and the workers stop at 11pm. At the Filton supercentre which replaces them, where all blood for the whole of the Midlands and South-West has to be processed, the work rolls non-stop 24 hours round the clock. Now, as a result of this restructuring, unhealthy night shift working is being inflicted onto more workers. It doesn't seem too much to ask when you work in the NHS, helping to save lives, that your employers won't make choices that could shorten your own!

Do you have to work night shifts? Does a friend or family member? Take care - here are some health tips for shift or night time workers and advice from the Health & Safety Executive.

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Friday, 13 March 2009

IWW Blood Service Valentine's Day of Action

On Saturday 14th February 2009 West Midlands IWW held a cavalcade to raise awareness of cuts taking place at the Birmingham blood centre this March.

The IWW is a union with members working in the National Blood Service. They will be affected when the local blood processing lab shuts and transfers its work to a new centralised ‘super-centre’ in Bristol. Staff believe this is a risky plan which could delay urgent specialist blood products from reaching patients in West Midlands hospitals. Around 70 jobs will go with the closure.

The mobile demonstration, including a van with banners, cyclists and cars, set off from close by the soon-to-be-slashed blood centre and passed the Queen Elizabeth hospital and medical school, before making stops at Selly Oak, City and the Children’s hospitals. Road users were made aware of the cuts as the cavalcade travelled around Birmingham’s main arteries. Around 30 protestors wound up the day leafleting the public in New Street outside the donor centre. The blood service depends on the generous donations of the public - many more will need to receive a blood transfusion at some point in their life.

Click on pictures to see bigger version

The campaign has not managed to save Birmingham’s blood processing lab, but on the positive side, opposition to the plans from workers and their supporters has meant that Birmingham will keep its vital red cell crossmatching lab, and in the North and South-East, blood processing centralisation plans were halted completely.

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Sunday, 8 March 2009

Greetings on International Women's Day

To celebrate International Women's Day today this blog is posting a story that began in September 2006. 84 workers, 82 of them women, making medical equipment in Turkey went on strike for over a year, fighting against gross abuses by their employer Novamed.

Following is a list of some of the abuses as alleged by the woman workers of the union:

* Married woman workers are not allowed to become pregnant without FMC Novamed's approval. Each worker is given a schedule, which specifies during which months they are allowed to become pregnant. If a woman worker becomes pregnant in "breach" of this given schedule, she is terminated without compensation.
* Woman workers are required to get permission from the employer before getting married.
* To "save energy" for their work at the factory, workers are being advised:
- not to accept guests in their own homes when they are off the clock,
- not to communicate or even have sex with their spouses when they are off the clock,
- not to see each other when they are off the clock,
- only to eat and sleep when they are off the clock.
* Workers are treated inhumanely, and continuously humiliated regardless of whether they make a mistake or not.
* Managers and supervisors call their workers to their office and accuse and humiliate them in such a way that there are few workers who come out of these accusation-performances without crying.
* Workers are not allowed to talk to each other during work hours, as well as in the shuttle during their trips from and to work.
* Workers are allowed inside the factory premises after being "sniffed" by their supervisors, because smoking during work hours is forbidden.
* During work hours, there is only a 15-minute break and a 25-minute lunch break. During lunch, instead of food, the factory is serving tea and cookies.
* An average shuttle trip from home to work may take as long as 2 hours because there are not enough shuttles allocated by the factory for the workers.

Read more here.

Picket sign states: "We decide when we give birth"

Novamed women's union poster

At the outset of the battle there was no union at their factory but they got organised with the help of the union Petrol-Is. After 447 hard days striking, up against anti-union tactics by management, but with wide international solidarity, the workers won.

From December 18th 2007:
A three-year initial labour agreement was signed today in Istanbul between Petrol-Is and Novamed that ends a historic strike by 84 of the workers in Mersin, Antalya. The strike, which will stand as a test of courage for fairness and dignity on the job, began on 26 September 2006.

The settlement will bring the 84 strikers, 82 of whom are women, back to the job, and will grant all workers a wage increase of 5% for the first year, and of 4% for the second and third year of the agreement. It also brings a social package that includes a payment for each of two religious holidays in Turkey, as well as productivity and attendance bonuses for workers. All the striking workers will return to work on the 2nd of January 2008.

The agreement was historic as it marked the first trade union inside Antalya, Turkey's 'Free Trade Zone' (an area where sweatshops can operate).

Read about their victory in full.

Novamed is owned by Fresenius Medical Care of Germany. This firm manufactures one of the types of blood bags used by the National Blood Service in this country. Workers in the NBS have a direct connection to these brave and inspiring people.

Fresenius has also been investigated over bribery allegations.

"According to a 2005 UN report, Fresenius Medical Care was one of more than 2,000 firms around the world alleged to have made illicit payments to Saddam Hussein's government to profit from the aid programme."

Read more here.

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