The Department of Health is considering outsourcing key elements of the NHS blood service to the private sector.

HSJ has learned the DH’s commercial directorate has held talks with private providers about running parts of NHS Blood and Transplant. It is not known which companies the department has already spoken to, but HSJ understands Capita and NHS Supply Chain, which is operated by logistics firm DHL, have been invited in for discussions.

A senior source told HSJ the commercial directorate was “market testing the blood transfusion service” and “bringing people in to see how they would do it better”.

NHS Blood and Transplant survived the cull of arm’s length bodies in July, but a second review was announced to look at how the service could become more “commercially effective” and identify functions which could be contracted out.

HSJ has been told the DH is considering outsourcing blood distribution and storage but keeping its collection in-house.

A DH spokeswoman confirmed the department was reviewing the future of the service. She said: “It is important to recognise NHS Blood and Transplant already outsources some of its support functions.

“We will be considering the experience and skills that exist in the private sector to identify opportunities for making it more commercially effective.

“We are not considering any functions that could risk destabilising the current national donor system. Where functions are being reviewed, ministers will be fully consulted before making any recommendations.