Blood transfusion safety

Blood donor selection and counselling

Information provided by 164 countries to the WHO Global Database on Blood Safety indicates that, worldwide, more than 92 million blood donations are collected annually. Of these, an estimated 1.6 million units are discarded due to the presence of infectious markers for TTI, including HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C and syphilis. In addition, at least 13 million prospective donors are deferred from donating blood due to anaemia, existing medical conditions or the risk of infections that could be transmitted through transfusion. The scale of these discards and deferrals highlights the need to establish systems for blood donor selection to minimize the unnecessary deferral of suitable donors, and the donation of blood by unsuitable donors, and also for blood donor counselling for individuals who are not accepted as blood donors or who are found to have abnormal test results.

Blood transfusion services (BTS) have the responsibility to collect blood only from donors who are at low risk for any infection that could be transmitted through transfusion and who are unlikely to jeopardize their own health by blood donation. A rigorous process of donor selection, to assess the suitability of prospective donors is therefore essential to protect the safety and sufficiency of the blood supply, and safeguard the health of recipients of transfusion and blood donors themselves, while ensuring that suitable donors are not deferred unnecessarily.

Most blood donors perceive themselves to be healthy, but some are unsuitable to donate blood. Blood transfusion services (BTS) have a duty of care towards blood donors who are deferred from donation, whether on a temporary or permanent basis, as well as those who donate blood and are subsequently found to have abnormal test results. Blood transfusion services have a responsibility to provide information, counselling and support to help such prospective donors to understand and respond to unexpected information about their health status or personal life.