Drop in blood donations may mean supplies will soon need to be imported

Irish Blood Transfusion Service says pandemic has been ‘very challenging’

A drop in blood donations since Christmas may mean supplies will soon need to be imported into the State.

This is just one of the issues the pandemic has raised for the Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS). Its national donor services manager Stephen Cousins said the Covid-19 pandemic has been "very challenging" .

The IBTS has said while current supplies are sufficient there has been a drop in donations in recent weeks. Mr Cousins said unless figures improve over the coming weeks it may be faced with having to import blood from the UK again

Over 400 units of blood were imported into Ireland on the week of Christmas in response to a shortage in supply. It marked the second time in 2021 that the IBTS imported blood from the UK's NHS Blood and Transplant.


“Before Christmas the problem was that you could see week on week the hospitals were taking that bit more than we were able to collect and the supplies were dropping each week. No matter what we did we couldn’t catch up, we couldn’t get ahead of the hospital demand,” Mr Cousins said.

“Supplies are reasonably okay at the moment. However, we are seeing them beginning to drop again since Christmas. Unless collection figures are really good over the next weeks we could find ourselves short again in a few weeks’ time.”

Booking system

However, Mr Cousins said that the new appointment booking system introduced during the pandemic had proved popular with donors and staff.

“With the appointment system only a certain amount of donors are allowed into the clinic at any one time. We’re getting through the donations much quicker and you’re generally in and out within the hour, which includes all the interview process, registration and the wait afterwards,” he said.

“Donors have found that really positive and the staff as well – it takes away some of the stress of before when large numbers were coming in.”

He added that one of the areas where the organisation was particularly struggling was securing younger donors.

“We used to have a lot of college clinics prior to Covid, and that’s where we got an awful lot of new donors…if you don’t get people in when they’re young, it’s much harder to get them when they’re in their 30s and become regular donors,” Mr Cousins said.

“There’s no doubt going into the future there’ll be a knock-on effect on that so we’ve got to find a new way of getting new donors into the system.”


Ruth Noble, originally from Co Wicklow, was among those who was donating blood at the IBTS's offices on D'Olier Street in Dublin on Tuesday morning.

"I would have donated when I was a student through the years, and then I lived in England for a year and up North for years. I donated there but then when I came back South I couldn't donate. I've been donating since they allowed us back again, which is great," she said.

“My mum donated blood, my dad wasn’t able to, and we would have gone with her and you got a packet of crisps and biscuits, and it was a big social occasion. It’s just a good thing to do, and it doesn’t cost anything. It’s life-changing for people trying to get blood.

“I really like when they text you to say your blood has been given at such and such a hospital, it makes it very real.”

Also donating blood was Chris MacDonald, who said he gives blood “every few months when I can”.

"I'm from Scotland so I was previously excluded from giving blood until they changed the rules," he said.

“I used to do it back home when I was 18. My mam always gave blood so it was just always kind of ingrained in me. The main thing is to try and build it into your routine and go every three months.”

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times