Blood safety

Key facts

  • Blood transfusions save lives and improve health.
  • A single unit of blood can benefit several patients.
  • Every country needs to ensure that blood supplies are sufficient and free from HIV, hepatitis viruses and other infections that can be transmitted through unsafe transfusion.
  • Globally, about 92 million blood donations are collected every year. Approximately half of these are in high-income countries, home to 15% of the world’s population.
  • Annual blood donations on average per blood centre in high-income countries is 30 000 versus 3700 in low-income countries.
  • The WHO goal is for all countries to obtain all blood supplies from voluntary unpaid donors by 2020.
  • At the moment, national blood supplies are based almost entirely on voluntary unpaid blood donations in 62 countries:
  • As of June 2012, 39 countries were not able to screen all blood donations for one or more of the following transfusion-transmissible infections (TTIs): HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C and syphilis.

The situation

  • The demand for blood outstrips supply. The proportion of China's population donating blood was 0.84% in 2010 and 0.92% in 2011.
  • WHO recommends that to maintain an adequate blood supply, 1%-3% of the population needs to be blood donors.
  • The proportion of blood donations in China has been increasing year by year.
  • 100% of China's blood supply is collected from voluntary unpaid blood donors. However, a significant proportion of the blood supply is still dependent on family/replacement donors
  • China had a total of 459 blood centres in 2010, including 355 stand-alone centres and 104 hospital-based centres.
  • 100% of donated blood is screened for transfusion-transmissible infections (TTIs): HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C and syphilis.
  • A total of 355 (77.3%) blood centres can prepare blood components (red cell, platelet concentrates, fresh frozen plasma).

WHO's recommendations

  • Improving clinical use of blood in order to reduce unnecessary blood transfusions. Guidelines have to be designed for clinicians on criteria for prescribing a blood transfusion.
  • Increasing voluntary blood donations. There is also a need to implement strategies to retain the donors and increase collection from repeat donors who regularly donate blood.
  • There is a need to build a blood donor programme that has strong community engagement and enjoys sustained support from donors and the general public.