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