Liam Farrell: The DH, blood plasma and Mitt Romney

Last month David Cameron was unwise enough to tweet: 'I'm about to meet Burmese president Thein Sein.'

Most responses were unprintable, but this one echoed the general tone: 'I'm about to do a poo in a disabled toilet at work, but you don't hear me bragging about it, do you?'

Which is evidence both of the irrepressible wit of the British public and how alienated they feel from those who exercise power. But it's our own fault, we're the ones who elected a circus of privileged old Etonians with no understanding of the struggles of the old and the sick. To be fair, the choice we were presented with was modest.

So rumours on Twitter about the privatisation of the blood bank seemed to be just another stage in the erosion of civic duty. Donating blood has always been a potent symbol of doing something good for its own sake; the recipient would never meet you, never shake your hand in gratitude and invite you to sleep with his daughter; all you got in return for your most vital and romantic of body fluids (most vital and romantic, with one exception, of course) was a cup of tea and a biscuit.

Blood is not such a big deal to doctors. I was a casualty officer in the early 80s and in those days unless you were steeped in gore up to the armpits, you weren't cool; if somebody vomited blood over you it was a lot less revolting than somebody vomiting vomit. AIDS was as yet unknown, the first reports of GRIDs (Gay Related Immunity Disorders) were just coming through from the US, a rumble of distant thunder at a picnic.

But then reality got in the way of a good and emotive story; it's not our actual blood that's being sold off, but Plasma Resources UK, with the DH retaining a 20% share in the business. Plasma is bought from the US, we don't source our own since the Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease outbreak.

And it's been bought by Bain Capital, the private equity company founded by Mitt Romney, so we can be assured that the interests of patients will always remain of primary importance.

No, seriously.

  • Dr Farrell is a GP from County Armagh. Follow him on Twitter @drlfarrell.

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