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Use of O-neg blood remained ‘relatively high’

Use of O-negative blood has remained “relatively high” despite some work undertaken to reduce usage, the CEO of the Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS) reported to its board in September.

According to Mr Andrew Kelly’s report, a meeting was held with the Academy of Clinical Science and Laboratory Medicine “to discuss how we could work together to optimise the use of O-negative. We discussed a range of issues, one of which was to carry out a survey of usage patterns across the hospitals.”

In February 2019, Mr Kelly advised the board he had written to the CEOs of 13 hospitals about the matter. “From the responses to date, the view seems to be that there is nothing they can do to reduce the usage of O-negative blood. I do not believe this is reasonable.”

The IBTS reports were obtained by the Medical Independent under Freedom of Information law.

As the ‘universal’ blood group, O-negative may be used when a patient’s blood type is not known. O-negative blood is also frequently used for transfusions required for patients with sickle cell disease (who are typically of African parentage), due to the low proportion of donors who share the blood groups of these patients.

An IBTS spokesperson said the incidence of O-negative in the population is 8 per cent and the average weekly issue is 14 per cent.

“We are working with the HSE and hospitals to ensure that all groups are used optimally.”

They added that the IBTS is collaborating with Sickle Cell and Thalassemia Ireland to launch a campaign to attract more donations from the African and Asian communities, which is due to be launched by the end of March.

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