New Blood campaign: How donated blood is used

PUBLISHED: 10:34 13 December 2012

Blood from donors is scanned at the N&N haematology department.  Photo: Bill Smith

Blood from donors is scanned at the N&N haematology department. Photo: Bill Smith

Archant © 2012

As part of the New Blood campaign to recruit 750 new donors this Christmas, we found out how blood stocks are used

The laboratory in the NNUH comprises of two issue fridges and two storage fridges where around 200 units of blood and plasma are kept.

Around 30 units of blood are needed to treat patients at the hospital every day and 50 units of fresh frozen plasma are needed every month.

Dr Gill Turner, a consultant haematologist at the NNUH, said: “The blood doesn’t come straight from the donor to us – it goes to one of the donor centres in London or Bristol where it’s tested. We then request what we need and it is delivered. We stock the minimum amount of blood. Each hospital has an emergency blood plan but we have never had to activate ours.

“All of our blood stock is from volunteer donors.”

Doctors and nurses at the NNUH request the blood they need through a serving hatch.

The hospital also stocks smaller bags of blood, each containing around 43ml, for babies.

“We have to place a special order for platelets and as a rule we don’t keep them here. We order them as we need them because they are so precious. We have daily deliveries of red cells and plasma.”

Red cells are used to treat patients with cancers and those with kidney problems. The increasing number of keyhole surgery procedures means that less blood is needed by surgeons.

Patients’ blood is also tested in the lab so they can cross match it with donated blood.

Eleven people work on the transfusion team at the NNUH and biomedical scientists work in the laboratory 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Dr Turner said the service needs more young blood donors to replace those who are unable to give any more.

“We need more younger donors. They are usually fitter and more likely to be able to give blood. If you give a unit of blood, you will make the red cells up within a week. People are easily able to give blood. You can make the fluid up within an hour,” she added.

It usually takes between two and four hours for a unit to be transfused. In an emergency it takes around 20 minutes, she said.

To see an interactive map of where you can donate, visit

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