Volunteers who deliver vital blood products to hospitals for the NHS have been hit by “frustrating” fuel shortages, a charity says.
Up to half of “bloodrunners” in Kent have been unable to go out on runs in recent days because of problems getting fuel.
And while the charity has so far managed to cover all its pick-ups and deliveries, some had been delayed as a result of the ongoing fuel crisis.
NHS Blood and Transplant says that there are no issues with blood deliveries in Kent or any part of the country, and that hospitals are getting the blood they need.
The crisis at filling stations across the country has seen motorists queueing in their hundreds amid warnings over panic buying.
Johan Pieterse from SERV Kent, a charity that transports crucial blood products for hospitals in the county for free out of hours, said the challenges were “frustrating”.
He told the PA news agency: “We have had a drop-off of about 50% of our members who can’t go on rota because they can’t get fuel since Friday night.
“It’s frustrating because we don’t see the need for the panic buying and all it’s doing is it’s affecting all emergency services, not just us.
“God forbid someone is in hospital needing a blood product or someone is at home and they can’t get it because we are stuck in queues of traffic.”
Mr Pieterse said the situation appeared to be getting “slightly better”.
SERV Kent – Service by Emergency Response Volunteers – is a charity working to assist NHS Blood and Transplant, which also makes deliveries.
It is one of a network of similar charities across England.
Their members in the north of Kent make regular runs to pick up supplies from a blood bank in Tooting, south London, before handing over to colleagues at the charity’s headquarters at the M2 services.
The products are then taken to hospitals across Kent, including William Harvey Hospital in Ashford, Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital in Margate, Kent and Canterbury Hospital, Maidstone Hospital, Medway Maritime Hospital, Darent Valley Hospital in Dartford and Tunbridge Wells Hospital at Pembury.
However, in recent days bloodrunners have been unable to access their headquarters due to long queues of cars stretching past the building.
“It has been frustrating and especially when you want to hand over blood products to another member and you can’t even do it because you can’t get into your own premises,” Mr Pieterse added.
“I just think if people had common sense and common sense prevailed we would not be in this situation.
“If there was a genuine shortage of fuel then you would have seen cars parked on the side of the road with no fuel.”
A spokesperson for NHS Blood and Transplant said: “Our priority is to make sure hospitals and patients get the blood they need.
“We have well-established plans for dealing with extra pressures on the service, which includes changes to fuel availability. Our drivers currently have enough fuel and as part of our contingency planning we have extra fuel in reserve.
“Hospitals can, on occasion, choose to arrange their own transport for blood (using contractors, couriers or charity volunteers such as the Blood Bikes) who currently deliver 2% of the blood products used by hospitals across England.”
For more information about SERV Kent, and to donate, visit: https://www.servkent.co.uk/