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Blood shortage sees IBTS importing bulk consignment from UK for first time since 1990s

The IBTS is asking for public support to maintain the blood supply over the summer months.

Image: Shutterstock/Olena Yakobchuk

THE IRISH BLOOD Transfusion Service (IBTS) is today importing a bulk consignment of blood from the UK for the first time since the late 1990s due to a current shortage in supply. 

115 units of Rh negative blood groups – O negative, A negative and B negative – are being collected from the NHS Blood and Transplant in Manchester today. 

The IBTS has not imported blood in bulk since the late 1990s. The IBTS does occasionally import a small number of rare blood units, however. 

“The IBTS is activating our contingency arrangement with NHSBT in England to supplement blood stocks and avoid raising an alert under the Irish national blood shortage plan, which could have a serious impact on patient care,” IBTS medical and scientific director Dr Stephen Field said. 

The IBTS needs to collect 3,000 units of blood every week to maintain the national blood supply. 

In addition to importing blood from the NHSBT, the IBTS is asking for public support to maintain the blood supply over the summer months. 

“Since moving to an appointment based system in March of last year, donors have been incredible in their support throughout the pandemic,” Dr Field said. 

“However, it has been increasingly difficult to keep the blood supply at the level we need as the summer progresses,” he said. 

Dr Field said the ITBS is not unique in this regard as “many blood services around the world are also reporting shortages”. 

Stocks of the main Rh negative blood groups are under particular pressure, he added, especially O negative. 

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Only 3% of the population are blood donors and approximately 9% of these are O negative. However, as this blood can be transfused to patients of all groups, issues of this blood group to hospitals frequently hits 15%, therefore requiring more frequent calls on O negative donors. 

“It has been a very tough 15 months for everyone but as hospitals increase their levels of activity, the demand for blood is as great as ever and we are urging donors, especially those with Rh negative blood groups, to make an appointment to give blood over the summer months,” Dr Field said. 

“If you receive a text message from us, please respond to the number provided to make an appointment.” 

People who wish to donate blood can go to the IBTS website for the latest information on Covid-19 measures and how to give blood safely through the appointment system. 

First time donors can complete an eligibility quiz and register their interest to donate online through the website. 

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