The Welsh Blood Service – 70 years of continuous change
Percy Oliver has been credited as the first person in the UK to realise that the most efficient way of ensuring that a hospital patient could receive blood of the correct blood group was to call a known volunteer to donate. Whole blood would be taken into a glass bottle containing an anticoagulant and stored at 4 °C until required. During the period 1921–1939, there was a steady shift from arm‐to‐arm transfusion to the use of stored donated blood, gaining particular prominence during the Spanish Civil War. In 1938, the Ministry of Defence established a committee in London to consider how blood transfusion support would be provided to military hospitals in the event of war. This led to the formation of the Army Blood Transfusion Service and the opening of the Army Blood Supply Depot (ABSD) in Bristol in 1939, the first military transfusion service in the world. Such was the demand at the outbreak of war that the ABSD processed more than 33 000 donations in its first year – six times more than the busiest civilian service prior to the war. The ABSD went on to produce all‐dried products, crystalloids and grouping sera, as well as all the equipment for collecting and administering blood. Four civilian blood banks were opened in and around London in 1939, the initial intention being to provide blood for military and civilian casualties. This ‘blood transfusion service’ proved so successful that in 1940, a further eight regional centres were opened under the supervision of the Emergency Medical Services. The first site of the National Blood Transfusion Service in Wales was in the Emergency Medical Service Centre at 19 Newport Road, Cardiff (Fig. 1).
At the end of the war, these regional centres were amalgamated under the supervision of the Ministry of Health. The National Blood Transfusion Service (NBTS) was formally established in England and Wales on 26th September, 1946 (Scotland established its own blood transfusion service), initially consisting of eight Regional Blood Transfusion Centres, later expanding to 14. In the same year, legislation in the form of The National Health Service Act led to the establishment of the NHS in 1948, and consequently, the blood transfusion services came under the umbrella of the new NHS.