Chief of England's blood service dismissed

BMJ 1998; 316 doi: (Published 18 April 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;316:1185
  1. John Warden, parliamentary correspondent
  1. London

    A crisis in the management of the National Blood Authority for England has led to the removal of its chairman, Sir Colin Walker. The health secretary, Frank Dobson, told the Commons that Sir Colin refused to resign so he dismissed him from his £10000 ($16000) a year part time post.

    This followed an independent report that Mr Dobson said was a damning indictment of the National Blood Authority. The report said that “widespread concern” existed among surgeons about the reliability of blood supplies. Mr Dobson admitted that there had been failures of management and leadership.

    The blood authority was formed in 1993 to rationalise a fragmented blood transfusion service by reducing the number of processing and testing centres. A breakdown of trust between the authority and clinicians in Liverpool led last summer to an inquiry by Professor John Cash, former president of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh and former director of the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service. In the light of what he discovered in Liverpool, Professor Cash extended his review to the overall performance of the authority.

    His report found “a disturbing degree of isolation of [National Blood Authority] headquarters from operational realities.” The chairman of the board, Sir Colin Walker, had often been too close to the day to day operations and on occasions seems either to have been misinformed or to have misunderstood the briefing that he received. As a result, the national blood service had been exposed to a central management structure and a command and control culture that had insufficient regard for the views of customers, staff, and the interface between patients and the service.

    Professor Cash also found that the relationship between the NHS Executive and the blood authority had been too close and insufficiently objective and should be reviewed urgently. The contractual arrangements of the internal market, not ideally suited to a system of voluntary blood donation, may have contributed to the authority's difficulties.

    Mr Dobson said that he was not confident that it was in the interests of the NHS for Sir Colin Walker to remain chairman of the National Blood Authority. He has appointed in his place Mr Mike Fogden, a former civil servant and chief executive of the employment service.

    Embedded Image

    Sir Colin Walker out of a job


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