The Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS), like many blood services, is experiencing pandemic related challenges to the sustainability of the blood supply.
As this was anticipated, the National Transfusion Advisory Group (NTAG) developed a ‘traffic light’ national alert framework for managing blood shortage so there is equity of access to blood for patients across the country. Sufficient supply is a 7-day supply held at IBTS, Amber alert is a 2-day supply and a Red alert is 1-day supply.
With each successive wave of COVID-19 infection in the community, the national supply has approached an Amber alert. Public appeals have been launched and on three occasions in the past 10 months, IBTS has had to import blood from the NHS Blood Transfusion Service (NHSBT) to prevent raising a national alert which would impact on hospital services. There is concern that supply at NHSBT is now under pressure and other services also require their support.
Demand for blood is higher now than pre-pandemic demand, reflecting service catch-up and the underlying demographic trends in the population. Demand for Rh D negative blood is higher than in many other European blood services.
So IBTS has taken action to increase donations and is seeking to influence clinical practice to reduce any demand where alternative intervention/therapy can be used.
Stock holding in hospitals has been reduced to 3 days and hospital transfusion teams are promoting good patient blood management practices.
In line with European services, restrictions on health care staff who have had COVID-19 infection or in contact with a case, have been minimised. Other measures are in preparation and of note the previous restriction on health care staff who trained/worked in the UK from 1980-1996 (BSE/VCJD risk) is no longer in place and these staff are eligible to donate.
For more information, please view this information poster for health care workers.
IBTS holds blood donation clinics throughout the country every week. You can find a list of clinic locations on their website.