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Goal 6: A safe secure supply of blood

Connecting Australian patients to life-giving blood, plasma, transplantation and biological products.

Nilesh Gunasekere, right, was one of the first donors to give plasma in the newly opened Civic Plasma Donor Centre in Canberra. Photo: Australian Red Cross Blood Service

The Australian Red Cross Blood Service is a unique organisation in Australia, focussed on delivering one of the world’s safest supplies of life-giving blood and blood products. The Blood Service also delivers world-class research and provides expertise in diagnostic, clinical, transplantation and immunogenetics services.

Goal: Provision of a safe, secure and cost-effective supply of blood and related products

To deliver leading edge outcomes we will produce high quality, safe products and services that are fit for purpose and meet stakeholders and customer needs

To be at the leading edge of performance we will make the best use of funding by delivering lean operations and a more efficient blood sector, and never take our eye off safety

To deliver a leading edge national network we will maximise the impact of our infrastructure and skills

In the past year almost half a million people donated blood. Thanks to their life-giving donations, the Australian Red Cross Blood Service delivered 961,891 fresh blood products to hospitals and healthcare providers across the nation. We also help to transform the lives of seriously ill Australians through tissue matching and transplantation work, providing 75% of tissue typing services for Australian transplants.

The Blood Service is committed to efficient collection, processing, testing and distribution of blood and blood products while maintaining a focus on quality and a great experience for blood donors. Delivering cost-effective products and services, while also delivering improved returns and health outcomes for Australians is a key focus. The Blood Service is in the top quartile of international performance for blood processing and testing benchmarks.

Donors are the heart of the Blood Service

This year with the help of 460,817 blood, plasma and platelet donors, the nation’s blood supply kept flowing. The Blood Service strives to make donating blood a positive experience for all donors and this year 93.8% rated their experience as satisfactory or better.

Return and frequency of visits by donors across all blood groups, collection types, age groups, and regions increased throughout the year. To improve the experience of our blood donors, we introduced online-self-service to make booking appointments easier and trialled a simple technique known as applied muscle tension to dramatically reduce the symptoms of dizziness, fainting or nausea felt by some people when donating blood.

Meeting the demand for plasma

A strategic priority for the Blood Service is to establish an internationally cost-competitive and sustainable plasma business line. This year we delivered 675 tonnes of plasma to biopharmaceuticals company CSL Behring to develop into 18 different life-giving treatments. While the amount of plasma supplied was slightly more than the previous year, the nation's demand for plasma continues to grow and the domestic supply of plasma has not kept pace with demand.

In response to the increased demand for plasma, the Blood Service’s multifaceted Plasma Program is developing innovative solutions to increase efficiencies and transform the way we collect and process plasma. Two plasma donor centres, the first of their kind in Australia, were established this year as part of the program. These centres aim to encourage more people to donate plasma by improving the donation process and experience.

Greater contribution to healthcare

The Blood Service’s work goes beyond blood, with innovative work into other areas of the health sector, including organ transplantation and tissue-based therapies. We are investing in the expansion of existing and new business and product lines to cater for the broader healthcare needs of Australians.

This year we developed the Australian Red Cross Blood Service Milk Bank. When launched, it which will provide a safe and reliable source of pasteurised donated human milk to premature babies in need. We also continued to develop a new Australian organ matching system (OrganMatch), a computer-based system that will allow for optimal matching of donor organs to transplant recipients.

What we learned

Limited shelf-life is a motivating factor

This year the Blood Service developed a strategic marketing campaign: “42". Research found very few people realise donated blood has a shelf life of just 42 days. Knowing this fact encouraged people to give blood.

The meaning of life, the universe and everything – according to legendary author Douglas Adams – is 42. The campaign encouraged people to “Be life, the universe, and everything to someone by giving blood.” Australians rallied to the call, with appointments from new donors averaging 15% higher for the first four months of the ongoing campaign.

You can learn more about becoming a blood donor and read the full annual report of the Australian Red Cross Blood Service at donateblood.com.au