Our contribution to health
This year, with the help of 461,268 blood and plasma donors, we kept the nation’s blood supply flowing. We are especially grateful for their continued support.
The Australian Red Cross Blood Service continues to deliver one of the world’s safest supplies of blood products and services. We test, process and distribute life-giving blood and blood products to patients across the country. Our contribution goes beyond blood, with innovative work in other areas of the health sector, including organ transplantation and tissue-based therapies.
Despite an ever-changing demand for blood, this year we accurately forecast and met the needs of Australian patients. For 357 days in 2016-17, our inventory was within the levels required to comfortably meet the requirement for blood products.
Demand for plasma grows
The nation’s demand for plasma, used in the manufacture of immunoglobulin products, continues to grow. However the domestic supply of plasma has not kept pace with demand and we see this as an opportunity for the Blood Service and donors to make an even greater contribution. This year we delivered 637 tonnes of plasma to CSL Behring for fractionation (separation) to be used in 18 different medical products.
We are investigating the benefits of plasma-only donor centres at two pilot sites which aim to simplify processes and improve efficiencies through a single collection point. The first Australian plasma-only donor centre will open in Townsville in 2017, with a second centre planned for Canberra in 2018.
This year we welcomed 97,635 new blood and plasma donors, who join almost half a million Australians who generously donate. We strive to make donating blood a positive experience for all our donors and this year 93.2% rated their experience as satisfactory or better.
We sent 25,000 text messages to donors every week, thanking them and telling them where their blood had helped. It has proved extremely popular, prompting many donors to attend more frequently.
We started work on developing a new Australian organ matching system (OrganMatch) and developing a human milk bank pilot. We continue to work closely with the Donor Tissue Bank of Victoria to explore opportunities to expand the supply of human tissue for the benefit of patients.
Donate together to save lives
In only its second year, our group donation program – Red25 – successfully achieved its target of 25% of donations from community groups and organisations. Last year Red25 members from more than 8,000 groups contributed 331,782 blood donations, helping nearly a million patients – an 8.4% increase on the previous year.
We launched phase one of our new donor relationship management system, to manage communications and appointments in a more intuitive and automated way. The system guides our conversations with donors and flags important events, allowing us to resolve queries and book appointments faster.
Privacy and security
In October the Blood Service learned that the data of approximately 550,000 prospective blood donors was publicly accessible through a webserver managed by a third party provider. After forensic investigation, it was confirmed the file was accessed by only two people who subsequently informed the Blood Service. The investigation confirmed all known copies of the data have been deleted.
Steps were immediately taken to strengthen security, including removing the data from the website, engaging national identity and cyber support service IDCARE, informing donors by text message and email, advising the national media and apologising unreservedly to donors. A dedicated information website and a hotline for donors were also established. In the first two weeks, 2,000 emails and 1,700 calls were received.
The incident was communicated to the Australian Cyber Security Centre and the Australian Federal Police, and reported to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner which conducted an investigation, releasing the findings in August 2017. Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim considered the community could have confidence in the Australian Red Cross Blood Service’s commitment to the security of their personal information. His statement concluded: ‘Data breaches can still happen in the best organisations — and I think Australians can be assured by how the Red Cross Blood Service responded to this event. They have been honest with the public, upfront with my office and have taken full responsibility at every step of this process.’
In light of the incident, we have taken taken significant steps to enhance cyber security to better protect data.
A separate annual report for the Australian Red Cross Blood Service can be found at donateblood.com.au.