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Save a life – give blood

Giving blood saves lives – it’s a lifeline in an emergency and for people who need long-term treatments. 400 new blood donors are needed every day to keep up with NHS demand, so to mark World Blood Donor Day on 14 June, Dr Sue Robinson, King’s Health Partners (KHP) Clinical Lead for Transfusion, and Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust Joint Clinical Director for Haematology, Haemostasis, Cellular Pathology, Oncology & Haematology Clinical Trials explains how staff and students can get involved and how the partnership comes together to make the most of donations.

Why is blood donation so important and what are donations used for?

Blood or the components of blood (plasma, platelets, red blood cells) are used to treat patients with medical conditions such as anaemia, cancer blood disorders, and those having surgery. Blood is usually separated into its individual components so a patient can be given the particular component they need. This makes the most of every blood donation as the components in one unit of blood (or one donation) can be used to treat different patients.

Around two thirds of the blood donated in England is used to treat medical conditions including anaemia, cancer, and blood disorders, and nearly a third is used in surgery and emergencies including childbirth.

How does someone who has never given blood donate for the first time?

To get started, you'll need to register your details on the national database, which will:

  • Ask some basic questions to check you are most likely to be able to donate;
  • Register and validate your email address; and
  • Complete your personal details to set up your account.

What can someone expect when donating blood?

Before donating blood, it’s recommended to eat regular meals, drink plenty of fluid (non-alcoholic), and avoid vigorous exercise or exertion.

When you’ve arrived, a blood pressure cuff will be placed on your arm to maintain a small amount of pressure during your donation. The cuff is not used to measure blood pressure. Following needle insertion you should be comfortable during your donation. If you experience any discomfort or pain please alert a member of staff.

An agitator scale constantly weighs and measures your donation. It will stop automatically when your donation is complete. A full donation is 470ml and will usually take between 5 and 10 minutes.

It’s important that donors are supported throughout their appointment and after. A selection of drinks and snacks are available at the refreshment table. Donors are encouraged to relax for 15 minutes and to have at least two drinks following donation.

There’s much more detail on Give Blood website here and in the video below.

What happens when I give blood?

Are there any blood types that the NHS particularly needs?

At the moment the NHS particularly needs:

  • Male donors - men can donate more often than women.
  • Black donors - Ro blood is needed and a common type for black donors.
  • O negative donors - hospitals need this blood type most regularly, as it can be given to all patients.

How is KHP Haematology bringing expertise to transfusion in south east London?

Across our KHP Haematology programmes, we are focused on working as ‘One Team’ through innovation and by improving the efficiency and sustainability of our work. As part of this focus our Blood Transfusion Teams work together on a number of areas across the partnership, including single mandatory training, providing the same training across all sites for staff groups involved in the transfusion process, and providing joint transfusion champion days and national conferences in partnership with the National Transfusion Practitioner Network to share learning and best practice.

More recently KHP Haematology joined an education programme “Transfusion Camp” in partnership with other UK and Canadian sites. Developed in Toronto, this is a transfusion education programme for trainees in internal medicine, critical care, anaesthetics (and others) as well as haematologists. Lectures and seminars are delivered by a transfusion medicine specialist (Dr Anicee Danaee) over the course of one year supported by the KHP Haematology team. Transfusion Camp will be rolled out to King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and Royal Brompton and Harefield hospitals colleagues in 2022-2023.

The main focus over the next 18 months is IT harmonisation to enable one electronic transfusion pathway across all eight sites (Denmark Hill, Princess Royal, Orpington, Guys Hospital, St Thomas’s hospital, Evelina, Royal Brompton and Harefield) with the implementation of the new Electronic Health Record (EHR), one Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) and Blood Track System.  This involves working together operationally. Benefits of this programme will include:

  • Safety and continuity of care;
  • Equitable access to the best-in-kind IT Blood Transfusion Solution for patients and staff;
  • Common processes teaching, training, guidelines, standard operating procedures;
  • Cross-site passports for mandatory transfusion training all staff groups;
  • Resilience, reduction in duplication to maintain an up-to-date QMS; and
  • Common source data to enable group audit, continuous improvement, research.

We are developing a world-leading, patient centered Haematology Institute that takes the latest research from bench to bedside, supporting and training healthcare providers to give the very best care to people with blood diseases.