Blood being imported from England due to shortages in Ireland

IBTS seeks public support to maintain supply over the summer months

A total of 115 units of Rh Negative blood groups – O negative, A negative and B negative – are being collected in Manchester on Wednesday.

A total of 115 units of Rh Negative blood groups – O negative, A negative and B negative – are being collected in Manchester on Wednesday.

 

The Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS) is importing a consignment of blood from the Blood Donation Service in England to address a current shortage here.

A total of 115 units of Rh negative blood groups – O negative, A negative and B negative – are being collected in Manchester on Wednesday.

The IBTS said it has not imported blood in bulk since the late 1990s and that it does “occasionally import” a small number of rare blood units.

It said the shortage related to increased demand and reduced supply due to a number of issues. “In recent weeks, the combination of the summer, the Euros and easing of public health restrictions has led to a decline in attendance [for blood donation] and filling our appointments has been significantly more difficult,” it said.

“Meanwhile hospitals have resumed normal activity and demand has been very strong, particularly in the Rh negative blood groups.

“This had led to our decision to import blood from the NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) to supplement our supply while we increase attendance for appointments at our clinics.”

The IBTS also said it was aware of the differences between the UK and Ireland in terms of blood donations, and that it was carrying out a review of its policy.

Until recently in the UK, any male donor could not give blood if they had had sex with another man in the previous three months. New rules introduced now allow gay and bisexual men who have had the same partner for three months or more to donate blood.

“The IBTS is aware of the different approach to assessing the risk of transfusion transmissible diseases associated with various social behaviours,” it said.

“The IBTS is in the process of reviewing the risks associated with transfusion transmitted infections and the recommendation of the independent group looking at this is expected in the autumn.”

Medical and scientific director Stephen Field said the IBTS is activating its contingency arrangement with NHSBT 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”.

The IBTS is also 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.

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

“The IBTS 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, especially O negative which is considered the universal blood group and is always in demand.

“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.

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

Those wishing to donate blood this summer can go to www.giveblood.ie for the latest information.