Transfusion safety in hospitals

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The main challenges for the hospital transfusion laboratory are ensuring patient safety, the effective use of blood, robust methods for documentation and monitoring practice, good blood stock management and low wastage, adequate staff training and the rapid availability of blood for those patients who need it urgently. Patient safety is paramount, but haemovigilance schemes worldwide continue to demonstrate that errors in the transfusion process result in patient morbidity and mortality.

There are considerable barriers to improving the safety of transfusion practice in hospitals, but they can be overcome by ‘re-engineering’ the process with the support of a multidisciplinary team with shared, achievable and measurable objectives, engaging with senior hospital management and having a determination to see the development of a new process through to completion and its implementation as routine practice.

This review will highlight where progress has been made in improving transfusion safety in hospitals, and use the implementation of electronic transfusion management systems in Oxford, UK, and the hospitals of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Centre (UPMC) in western Pennsylvania, USA, as examples of improving patient safety and to support and educate clinical staff when the decision to transfuse is being made.

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