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We will develop a fully linked electronic system from blood donor to patient, allowing us to monitor and improve the use of blood.

Blood group O Rh negative of packed red cell (PRC) bag for blood transfusion

Our research will examine how data can be used to improve blood transfusion practice. Blood transfusion is a common procedure carried out in hospitals; nearly 2 million blood components are transfused in England at a cost of over £300 million/year. Used to best effect, these play a vital role in saving lives, but repeated analyses show large gaps between recommended and actual transfusion practice. Unnecessary transfusions put patients at risk of adverse effects and are a waste of a limited resource. In addition, blood services often find it difficult to predict how much blood hospitals need. This results in both wasted blood and a risk that the best type of blood component may not always be available for a patient needing a transfusion. Work with our patient and public involvement groups have highlighted these issues and our research unit will seek to find solutions to improve patient care.

We want to ensure that the right patient safely receives the right blood component for the right reason at the right time. ‘Data-driven’ approaches, using actual data at all steps in the transfusion chain, offer ways to improve transfusion practice, such as feeding back data to clinicians about their practice or using computer systems to assist clinical decisions. Up to now there has been limited research in this area. Our aim is to develop a fully linked electronic system from the blood donor to the patient recipient, to monitor and improve use of blood. We will research the use of electronic systems to improve transfusion practice, for example, to support clinicians to request blood only when needed, and to use alternatives to transfusion when it is right to do so. We will also examine how real-time data can prevent late delivery of blood to hospitals and cut wastage by improving the supply chain.

Therefore, we plan overlapping research work-packages:

  1. Using hospital data to understand and address the variations in blood use between hospitals
  2. Using electronic systems to improve the sharing of information between hospitals and blood services
  3. Improving the blood supply chain
  4. Using data from hospitals and GP practices to develop electronic tools to improve the outcomes for patients who might need transfusion
  5. Investigating the costings of different pathways and processes for transfusion, to enable cost effective solutions to be put in place.

We have a diverse team from all over the UK who have already played a key role in developing new ways of introducing electronic (paperless) processes to hospital transfusion and blood ordering systems. We have a number of experts in data and supply chain management as well as the Blood Service and together we will work alongside our donor and patient groups to ensure they always have a voice in the decisions we make. We will also ensure our work builds capacity and space for new researchers to ensure this field continues to develop for the benefit of all. Most importantly we are committed to sharing our findings with transfusion teams in all hospitals, including those with less developed electronic systems and will work with colleagues in national networks, including the National Blood Transfusion Committee to make a meaningful difference to our patients.