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Monday, 30 July, 2001, 12:07 GMT 13:07 UK
Church donates blood machine
Cats re-circulates a patient's own blood
Jehovah's Witnesses are donating a blood-cell salvage machine to a hospital that takes away the need for transfusion in surgery.

Members of the religion traditionally refuse blood transfusions because they conflict with their beliefs.

The Fresenius Continuous Autologus Transfusion System (Cats), which is being donated to St Mary's Hospital in Newport on the Isle of Wight, re-circulates a patient's own blood during operations.

John Carruthers, a spokesman for the Jehovah's Witnesses, said he hoped the machine, which is being delivered on Monday, would also be an advantage to other people.

In simple terms, patients are receiving their own fresh blood without the risk of infection

Dr Rajeev Joshi, consultant haematologist
He said: "Because of teachings in the Bible, Jehovah's Witnesses do not touch blood that is not their own.

"This machine will mean that when they require surgery there is no need for blood transfusions to be used."

The fundraising for the 19,000 Fresenius Kabi machine was set up on the island because of the high proportion of Jehovah's Witnesses who live there.

Cost savings

Mr Carruthers added: "But we hope it will also be useful for the wider community, since as more people become aware of the potential health risks of blood transfusions they will be able to use it as well."

Dr Michael Hof, senior consultant at St Mary's, welcomed the fact the reduction in health risks of transfusions could potentially save the NHS millions of pounds.

He said: "Unfortunately, the rest of the world is ahead of the United Kingdom as far as the use of cell salvage is concerned.

How the Cats machine works
The machine collects blood from the site of surgery
Blood is mixed with heparin to stop it clotting
Blood is passed into a reservoir and coarse particles are filtered out
Blood is washed using saline, to remove heparin
Blood is collected in a reinfusion bag and delivered back to the patient
"At present the public on the island and in the UK generally do not demand cell-salvage because they are not aware of its benefits."

Dr Hof's colleague, consultant haematologist Dr Rajeev Joshi, said he had been pushing for the treatment to be available in the UK for "a long time".

He said: "In simple terms, patients are receiving their own fresh blood without the risk of infection."

Cats also speeds up the transfusion process, as there is no need to carry out compatibility tests on the patient.

The machine also improves the quality of the blood because it does not need storing, which reduces its capacity for storing oxygen.

The Isle of Wight is home to 600 Jehovah's Witnesses in seven congregations.

Proportionally that is one for every 250 people, compared to one for every 450 people across the rest of the UK.

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