Making the most of Scotland’s precious blood supply

Did you know that donated blood has a shelf life of 35 days?

Getting the right blood, for the right patients, at the right time is essential for the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service (SNBTS) to make sure that the donor’s gift is used in the best way possible. Realistic medicine puts the person receiving healthcare at the centre of decisions made about their care which in turn helps us manage blood stocks in the most efficient way possible.

Making the most of Scotlan'd precious blood supply with vector image of blood drop

Every precious blood donation is tested and made into a variety of blood components that meet patients’ needs. Hospitals receive these components from SNBTS and match them to the blood groups of the intended patients.

“Only 3% of people in Scotland give blood, but each donation can save or improve the lives of up to three people,” explained Dr Megan Rowley, Consultant in Transfusion Medicine at SNBTS.
“O negative blood can be given to patients of any blood group, making it an extremely valuable resource for emergencies where blood is needed immediately.” 

Managing the challenges of blood transfusion

SNBTS has introduced an interactive dashboard to help manage blood stocks. This innovative system helps us understand patterns of O negative blood use across varying hospitals, locations and local clinical services.

Dr Rowley highlighted that: “We’ve provided each Hospital Transfusion Team with a toolkit, which promotes conversations about variations in practice and allows a better understanding of decision making. The toolkit enables the teams to consider where improvements to O negative use can be made, while ensuring we’re following the philosophy of ‘right patient, right blood, right time.’”

The team has seen some great suggestions coming out of the toolkit. A few examples include: using group-specific blood in a bleeding emergency as soon as a blood group can be safely established and using O positive emergency blood for groups of patients where it is safe to do so.

Another proposal was to hold smaller stocks of O negative in remote and rural locations and to rotate blood from smaller to larger hospitals to ensure it is available in the right location when patients need it.

“These are effective, smart improvements that can help make the most of Scotland’s precious blood supplies,” said Dr Rowley.

For information on giving blood please visit


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