Tuesday, March 9, 1999 Published at 03:10 GMT
Blood transfusion errors rise
UK hospitals use 10,000 units (4,500 litres) of blood a day
The number of patients given the wrong type of blood in transfusions increased by more than a third over the last year.
Overall, including cases where patients received infected blood, there were 197 problematic incidents - nine of which resulted in death.
A blood standards group is calling on the government to fund improved procedures to ensure patients receiving transfusions get the right type of blood.
Identifying patients' blood type
The Serious Hazards of Transfusion group, which is affiliated to the Royal College of Pathologists, published the report.
It also wants patients to be issued with a unique identity number to prevent them receiving the wrong type of blood.
The report recommends steps hospitals can take to improve procedures and safety.
Laboratory errors accounted for 41 of the incidents, including one of the fatalities, according to the group.
The total of 197 incidents was up from 169 the previous year.
'Transfusion is safe'
Dr Lorna Williamson, a transfusion specialist at Cambridge University, is one of the report's authors. She also works for the National Blood Service.
But she said: "We do want to make some recommendations to improve the safety of blood.
"One of the things we are still seeing is blood intended for one patient being given to another patient because of failure to identify patient and blood correctly."
She said there was a need, in the short term, to improve staff training. But in the long term the focus should be on hospitals computerising records.
Barcode tracking system
Blood is given a barcode when it is collected, and this provides the National Blood Service with a means of tracking it through the system.
Dr Williamson said the system could be extended to hospitals in the future to prevent mistakes by nurses and doctors.
She said: "The most comprehensive way to operate the system would be to have a barcode on the patient's wristband. It would also go on any samples taken from the patient.
"It would track that blood through the whole laboratory system as well, so that system would have other benefits."