Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Have you ever had a near miss with a blood transfusion?

  • Comments (3)

Over the past few weeks I have edited a five-part series on blood transfusion, which has reminded me of the multiple points at which things can go seriously wrong, from taking a cross-match blood sample to administration of a blood transfusion.  

I was surprised to see how often Serious Hazards of Transfusion (SHOT) receives reports of patients being given the wrong blood. In 2012, 252 incidents were reported and, of these, 151 errors originated in the clinical area.

The consequences of receiving incompatible ABO blood products can be life threatening, and NHS England has labelled these errors never events.

Yet in 2012, 10 incidents occurred and three of these patients went on to experience severe harm as a result of the inadvertent transfusion of ABO-incompatible blood components. In two-thirds of cases transfusion errors were caused by human error, often due to misidentification of the patient.

Interestingly, NHS Blood and Transplant and SHOT are seeking to empower patients with a campaign encouraging them to ask health professionals “Do you know who I am?”. They make it clear that patients should understand what the blood samples are being taken for and give their consent.

It is surprising that despite policies that dictate rigorous checking procedures and careful observation of patients, errors continue to occur. Clearly we can’t rely on patient empowerment to ensure that the right patient gets the right blood, but we have a responsibility to ensure we are up to date with the latest evidence on the management of transfusion.

To support you in this Nursing Times is publishing a five-part series on blood transfusion written by experts from the NHS Blood and Transplant Patient Blood Management Team. It aims to help you provide evidence-based care to your patients and help avoid errors that can lead ultimately to loss of life.

The series covers:

  • Consent for transfusion (published 3 September)
  • Processing, storage, testing and selection of blood components (10 September);
  • Safe administration (17 September);
  • Transfusion reactions (24 September);
  • Patient Blood Management(1 October)
  • Comments (3)

Readers' comments (3)

  • Anonymous

    My brother was once almost killed after being given the wrong blood. He had his name, DOB and blood group tattooed on his arm after that. Drastic, but true.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Anonymous

    In recent decades the blood suppliers in Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand have worked hard to improve the safety of our blood supply, and have reduced the risk of transmission dramatically. These days the greatest risk from transfusion is human error. It is time for those of us who work in hospitals e.g. Nursing, laboratory etc to ensure that the right patient receives the right blood. Patient's lives are at stake.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Anonymous

    I agree with anon above. My brother was seriously ill already so ANY errors made the difference between him living or dying. The statistics are appalling so why haven't fool proof checks or technological advances been brought in to counteract this? I'm not in that area but offer an incentive to people who are to come up with something. If you know what the problem is there is usually a solution.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment.

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.