Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point
On Air
Low Graphics

Friday, July 24, 1998 Published at 12:05 GMT 13:05 UK


Service in need of transfusion

Collection "takes place predominantly in church halls and community centres"

The system for collecting blood donations is in need of a major overhaul according to a consultant haematologist.

Frank Booth from Torbay Hospital says little has changed in the past fifty years since the start of the National Blood Transfusion Service.

"Collection of blood from volunteers in the UK still takes place predominantly in church halls and community centres _ and sees fleets of pantechnicons trundling miles across the countryside," he writes in the British Medical Journal.

He criticises the productivity of a service which is constantly struggling to meet the demand for blood from hospitals. He says the collecting teams rarely work at weekends and have a productive working day lasting just four hours.

'Radical rethink'

Frank Booth believes it is time for a "radical rethink" of blood collection. He wants to see more collection taking place in hospitals which currently "act as users of blood but not suppliers."

[ image: 2.5 million units are collected each year]
2.5 million units are collected each year
He also believes that far more use should be made of autologous predeposition of blood. This is where a patient donates blood before an operation and receives it back during surgery, should the need arise.

The practice is already used in the private sector but Frank Booth says its application in the National Health Service (NHS) has been haphazard.

"In a few areas the National Blood Service has taken the lead, but elsewhere it has been left to local initiatives, and for most hospitals the necessary funding has not been forthcoming."

New flexibility

He says collection centres in all district general hospitals would make autologous predeposition far more practical.

The system would also become more flexible, capable of finding new donors from the many people who would like to give blood but cannot make daytime sessions because of work commitments.

The medical and laboratory support onsite at a hospital makes it the logical place to have a collection service, he says.

"The hospital haematologist would become an integral part of the transfusion service and not just a user and go between."

Service review

The work of National Blood Authority (NBA) - the body that oversees blood services - is currently under review.

[ image: The service is under review]
The service is under review
The new chairman of the authority, Mike Fogden, will present his recommendations in the Autumn. Mr Fogden's appointment came after the Health Secretary fired his predecessor in April.

"The new chairman will be looking at ways of improving the service, making it more convenient for donors," a spokesman for the NBA said. "We also need to increase the number of donors because the government's waiting list initiative is going to increase the demand for blood."

About 2.5 million units of blood are collected in the UK each year. English hospitals alone use 10,000 units everyday.

A unit is 450 ml (just under a pint).

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

Health Contents

Background Briefings
Medical notes

Relevant Stories

17 Jul 98 | Health
Blood supplies to be treated for CJD

22 May 98 | UK
Second blood chief fired

15 May 98 | UK
Blood donor rules relaxed as stocks fall

08 Apr 98 | UK
Blood authority chief fired

18 Mar 98 | UK
Blood errors caused by safety failures - report

Internet Links

National Blood Service

Department of Health

British Medical Journal

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

In this section

Disability in depth

Spotlight: Bristol inquiry

Antibiotics: A fading wonder

Mental health: An overview

Alternative medicine: A growth industry

The meningitis files

Long-term care: A special report

Aids up close

From cradle to grave

NHS reforms: A guide

NHS Performance 1999

From Special Report
NHS in crisis: Special report

British Medical Association conference '99

Royal College of Nursing conference '99