No blood shortages reported despite a significant drop in donations


BLOOD DONATIONS by members of the public were down last year by more than 5,000, the Irish Blood Transfusion Service has confirmed in its latest annual report.

Despite the 4 per cent fall in donations there were no shortages affecting patient care, medical director Dr Ian Franklin said.

Overall, almost 150,000 units of blood were given by almost 88,000 donors last year, the report, published yesterday, shows.

The reduction reflected the service’s efforts to improve stock management, maximise the use of donations and reduce costs, chief executive of the service Andrew Kelly said.

New initiatives to manage platelet use, which has been relatively high in Ireland, may have played a part, Dr Franklin said.

Platelets are small cells present in the blood of all healthy people which are essential to enable blood to clot properly.

There were no reports of any transfusion-associated viral infections, “a key result in the permanent drive to the safest possible blood supply,” he added.

The largest percentage of donors were in the 25-31 age group (17 per cent of donors), followed by the 46-52 age group (16.8 per cent of donors).

The blood group O positive made up more than two-fifths of donors, followed by A positive at a fifth. Just an eighth of donors were the universal type O negative.

The service appealed for more donation of O positive and O negative blood as it had just four days’ supply.

On stem cells, it noted that 41 Irish patients received them from an unrelated donor, with eight donations from Ireland, 26 from the rest of Europe and seven from outside the EU.

Three stem cell donations and one lymphocyte donation were collected in Ireland and used overseas.

The service last year finished tracing 99 per cent of people who may have been infected with hepatitis C between 1977 and 1994 from the then Blood Transfusion Service Board’s contaminated Anti-D product.

Of the 98 per cent of people tested (14,724) in five continents, 7 per cent were Elisa positive (1,089), of whom 503 had continued hepatitis C infections, the report said.

The service has not yet found an affordable system to screen for variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in blood, Mr Kelly said.

Last year, the Health Information and Quality Authority advised and the Minister for Health decided that it would not be cost effective to introduce new technology of prion filters to “reduce the risk” of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease by blood transfusion.

The transfusion service was in discussion with the Department of Health as to the best way to minimise what is “already a very low risk”, it said.

The financial report shows income of €108.2 million in 2011 compared with €110.7 million in 2010.

The department decided that the service should no longer manage the products of haemophilia patients.

“This was an integral part of our funding model and certainly will require savings to be made to make good the income lost from these products,” Mr Kelly said in the report.

The financial report also shows a €12.2 million loss on the company’s pensions scheme last year.

The pension issue “remained unresolved” in 2011 and was impacting on staff across the organisation, Mr Kelly said.