Managing blood donations

How NZBS ensures the right blood and blood products are available for those who need them.

The New Zealand Blood Service (NZBS) exists to provide the people of New Zealand with safe, appropriate and timely access to blood and tissue products and related services to meet their health needs.

Every week approximately 3,000 units of blood need to be donated nationally in order to meet the demand from public and private hospitals around New Zealand.

Bags of blood

NZBS works to ensure that every blood donation goes to a patient in need of it, and to do so this requires some very careful planning and forecasting for what the demand from the hospitals will be.

This includes looking carefully each day at the number of donors who have made appointments for the week BY BLOOD GROUP. Blood group is very important, as this corresponds to the blood groups of the patients being treated in hospitals.

For example the more common the blood types are (O and A donors), the more their blood is needed as these are the most common blood types amongst patients in hospital. Conversely the more uncommon the blood types are (AB and B donors), the less it is needed as there are fewer patients with those blood groups generally in hospital also.

For this reason donors with B+, AB+ and AB- donors may have received a letter informing them that they are on a “blood donation holiday” as these blood types are often adequate  in stock and not as frequently needed. This means when we call you, your blood type is in need.

Other considerations include predicting, again by blood group, how many donors may drop into a donor centre or mobile blood drive without appointments and how many donors may cancel or not show up for their appointment. Blood donation appointments are therefore a key factor in forecasting so donors are asked to book appointments wherever possible.

NZBS Blood Stock levels are assessed five times a week to work out which blood groups are needed for either the current week or the next week. This information is passed onto the call centre to call specific donors that match the blood types needed for that week or the next week. As donors who donate at mobile blood drives get less opportunity to donate they are contacted before those who donate at a Donor Centre (who have the opportunity to donate at any time).

This does mean some donors will be called very regularly while others may not hear from NZBS for several months. But rest assured, when we do call you it means your blood type is in need!

We thank all of our donors for their understanding as we work to ensure every gift of blood helps to save lives, and encourage donors to please make appointments to assist us in this process.

Published on: 11 Feb 2012

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