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Oxford-led study makes recommendations for blood transfusion services during pandemic


A study looking at how blood transfusion services have coped during the COVID-19 pandemic has found that while blood providers such as NHS Blood and Transplant have reported a reduction in donor numbers, it has largely been counterbalanced by a reduction in demand for transfusions.

The study by a group of international blood donation and hospital blood management experts was led by Prof Simon Stanworth, Consultant Haematologist for NHS Blood & Transplant and Oxford University Hospitals (OUH).

All blood transfusion services have been challenged by the pandemic and what this might mean for supply and demand for blood. To address this uncertainty, blood transfusion services have been planning for possible big reductions in donations and loss of critical staff due to sickness.

The aim of the study was to provide to develop guidance on transfusion practice and blood supply in times of potential or actual shortage.

The expert group worked closely with colleagues in the UK Blood Service's Systematic Review Initiative, who are based at OUH's John Radcliffe Hospital. This team ran a systematic search on a daily basis to identify relevant COVID-19 literature, with a strong focus on the transfusion chain from donor to patient. 

Prof Stanworth said: "We hope that these strategies we describe in this report can be of assistance to blood transfusion services in countries at different stages in the pandemic. All blood transfusion services and hospitals have been planning for potentially significant disruptions to supply of blood for transfusion. Yet, we need to maintain access to blood for transfusion during the pandemic for many patients, as needed, for example, major trauma."

The study team recommended a number of options for contingency planning to support the various steps in the chain from the donor through the collection and processing of blood, to the implementation of policies underpinning prioritisation of use for patients in the event of predicted shortage.

The paper was published in The Lancet Haematology:

Effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on supply and use of blood for transfusion