Better management of the O negative blood supply

Better management of the O negative blood supply

While other blood types are needed less and less, the demand from health providers for O negative blood keeps going up.

Our O negative donors are being asked to give more frequently than anyone else. These donors make up only 9% of the population, but they supply more than 15% of our red cell demand — something doesn’t add up. So, how are these O negative units being used? Where does it all go?

To understand what’s causing this demand, our Research team surveyed the fate of O negative red blood cell units issued to all approved Australian health providers over a five-week period in 2015. We wanted to find out if the growing demand for this blood type was because of unavoidable changes in transfusion practice, or whether there’s something that can be done to reduce the demand. 

Our health providers are requesting more O negative blood each year. The largest avoidable use of O negative units was transfusing them because they were close to expiry, which accounted for almost a quarter of total usage.

We’re using the survey results to guide conversations with clinicians and blood bank scientists to develop ways to minimise wastage and manage hospital inventory more effectively while still meeting patients’ needs.