Doctors need to prepare for shortages in the supply of blood for transfusion, warns an expert in this week's British Medical Journal.
Dr Adrian Copplestone outlines how changes that might reduce the supply of blood are afoot and are going to affect all clinicians who use blood and blood products.
Restrictions following a second possible case of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) transmitted by transfusion have reduced the number of donors, writes the author. This comes on top of a general trend of falling number of donors.
The Department of Health has also recently circulated a plan in case blood supplies run low. It suggests that hospitals need to reduce the stock of blood they hold and use blood more effectively. For instance, elective operations with more than a 20% chance of requiring blood are the first to be cancelled.
Reducing transfusion errors is also an important step, although this a major undertaking in large hospitals, he adds.
New regulations surrounding transfusion practice are on the way and will need to be incorporated in UK law by February 2005, says the author. "We need to act now to decrease our dependence or we will be faced with deciding which patient is going to get the remaining bag of blood in the fridge," he concludes.
Materials provided by British Medical Journal. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
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