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Better management of the O negative blood supply

While overall demand for red cells is decreasing, there is a progressive increase in the proportion of red cells which are O Rh(D) negative that are being supplied to health providers. Our O Rh(D) negative donors are being asked to give more frequently than anyone else, since these donors, who make up only nine percent of the population, are supplying more than 15 percent of our red cell demand. So how are these O Rh(D) negative units being used? Where does it all go?

To understand what is causing this demand, our research team surveyed the fate of group O Rh(D) negative red blood cell units issued to all approved Australian health providers within a five week period in 2015. We wanted to find out if the growing demand for this blood type was due to unavoidable changes in transfusion practice or whether there is something that can be modified to reduce the demand. 

The survey response gathered data on over 6000 units that were transfused into approximately 3000 patients. The largest avoidable use of O negative units was transfusing them because they were close to expiry, which accounted for almost a quarter of total usage.

We are using the survey results to guide conversations with clinicians and blood bank scientists to develop ways to minimise wastage and manage hospital inventory more effectively while still meeting patients’ needs.

Lead researcher: Rena Hirani