G8 protests spark blood supply crisis

HEALTH chiefs are asking Scots to donate an extra 20,000 pints of blood amid fears that next month's G8 summit could descend into violence.

Plans have also been drawn up to import blood supplies from south of the Border if rioting breaks out among the huge crowds expected to descend on Edinburgh.

In another sign of the growing fear that the protests could turn into pitched battles, ambulance managers will draft in at least 40 extra staff from England, as well as crews from the west and north of Scotland.

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Scotland is braced for chaos after Bob Geldof's call for one million people to march on Edinburgh during the meeting of world leaders at Gleneagles between July 2-6.

Officials at the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service (SNBTS) will launch a major drive this week to increase blood stocks, which normally stand at around 50,000 but need to be boosted to 70,000.

Dr Moira Carter, donor services manager with the SNBTS, said it was not predicting a major problem but needed to increase stocks.

"There is going to be a big calendar of events surrounding the G8 summit and we are trying to make sure blood stocks are at the optimal level," she said. "We can never be complacent and we will be making an extra special effort to keep donor tendencies high up to the G8 summit."

She added that blood from the national blood service and the Irish and Welsh blood services could be brought if there was a "major incident".

Carter said the service particularly needed stocks of O negative type blood, which is used in emergency situations as it can be given to any patient.

One senior surgeon in Edinburgh warned yesterday: "If there is blood spilt during the G8 demonstrations then a good supply of blood will be essential."

John Smith, president of the Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh, added: "The surgery necessary to correct severe trauma would not be possible without blood donations, and many patients would die."

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The implications of G8 for the Scottish Ambulance Service are also serious. Many of Scotland's 450 accident and emergency ambulance units are expected to be moved to Edinburgh during the summit, together with medical tents. An insider said the service had been forced to rethink its plans after Geldof's comments two weeks ago.

The insider said: "With the numbers being talked about, we have never had to deal with anything quite on this scale before and we are having to review some of our plans.

"Staff from other parts of the country who are on holiday or are off have been asked if they are prepared to work. There will be considerably more staff operating in Edinburgh.

"Ambulance services from south of the Border are also expected to be donating some additional staff to work with our paramedics in units, medical tents and provide support for our crews."

Helicopter crews from RAF Kinloss will also be on standby to support the Scottish Ambulance Service's own air ambulance wing for transferring critical patients to hospital.

Hospitals in the capital, Tayside and Glasgow are also believed to be in talks to cancel operations and free up beds during the summit.

All leave has been cancelled by Scotland's police forces and many of the country's 16,000 officers have been allocated to guard G8 events.