Blood supply stable

The supply situation was, for the most part, stable in 2022; it was possible to donate blood throughout the year without restrictions.

The needs of the population in Switzerland for blood products could be met at all times in 2022. Procuring a sufficient amount of donated blood was more challenging last year than had been the case in the preceding years, when the pandemic had people at home a great deal, with more free time on their hands and unable to do much travelling.

Steady demand for blood

The need for blood products in Swiss hospitals remained at a stable level throughout the entire year, with overall demand for blood products somewhat lower than in 2021. Thrombocytes were the only product for which demand rose. There was a 1.3 per cent decrease in the demand for the key blood product, red cell concentrates (erythrocyte concentrates). This slight decline in 2022 followed three years over which demand had stabilised. The need for thrombocyte concentrates (platelets) increased by 1.8 per cent compared to 2021, and the need for plasma was down by 3.1 per cent.

More effort involved and less able to rely on regular donors

The supply of blood products to the population in Switzerland was secure at all times in 2022. Seasonal fluctuations in the summer and over the holidays posed a challenge for the 11 regional blood transfusion services, the RBSD – especially at the end of the year, when the increased incidence of Covid-19, influenza and other influenza-like illnesses prevented many regular donors from donating. Moreover, more resources had to be devoted to recruiting new blood donors, motivating donors to keep donating blood regularly and building up strong ties in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. The explanation for this lies primarily in the post-pandemic increase in mobility and travel activity.

This greater activity made it more difficult to get potential blood donors to come in to donate, including during mobile blood drives. Ideal locations for these are attractive, easily accessible sites that have high foot traffic, such as the Welle7 centre in Bern railway station (Bahnhof Bern). Mobile drives once again played a very important role in securing the national blood supply in 2022, accounting for 46.7 per cent of supply (2021: 46 per cent). A total of 1,995 blood drives (2021:1,853) were held in 995 communities (2021: 905). The average number of donations per drive was 62, below the 2021 average (66.7 donations/drive).

Expiration rate down

Swiss Transfusion SRC and the RBSD strive to ensure the national supply of blood products while aligning procurement activities as closely as possible with demand. There were 265,223 units of blood collected in 2022, 1.1 per cent below the 2021 count (268,202).

The expiration rate for erythrocyte concentrates was also reduced to 0.8 per cent (2021: 0.9 per cent). This represents a record low for the expiration rate, which is desirable. The low expiration rate also indicates that the regional blood transfusion services are able to react flexibly to changes in the demand for blood and adjust the numbers of donations collected – by contacting donors whose blood groups are in high demand directly in the event of an acute need, and through appeals for donations in the regional media and on social media.

Swisstransfusion: Switzerland. Congress for transfusion medicine

On the first and second of September, specialists from the fields of transfusion medicine, hemapheresis and immunohaematology came together in Bern for the 21st annual Swisstransfusion congress, after being unable to meet in person the previous years due to the pandemic.

The scientific programme on the first day of the congress was devoted to treatments and products of the future. One focus was on innovative treatment methods using cellular therapies; others were on blood products that have been modified with respect to their production, storage and shelf-life as well as on recent research into the clinical uses of blood. On the second day, general topics relating to the blood supply were discussed, along with scientific questions concerning transfusion medicine, immunohaematology and blood safety. What awaits us with the new generation of blood donors? What challenges and opportunities will digitalisation bring?

World Blood Donor Day: the extra hour

Many people don’t give blood – why not? One reason people often quote is that they do not have the time. A donation of whole blood, during which 450 ml of blood is collected, takes one hour at the most, including the time needed to fill in the questionnaire and take a short rest and a snack afterwards.

So on World Blood Donor Day, the 14th of June, we asked young people how they would spend one extra hour if it were given to them. We recorded their responses in a video that we then posted on social media.

Eighty per cent of the population needs a transfusion of blood or a blood product at least once in their lifetime. But only 4.3 percent of those living in Switzerland and eligible to donate blood actually do so regularly.

Pilot project: raising blood-donation awareness and motivation among persons with migration backgrounds

More and more people living in Switzerland come from migration backgrounds or have a parent or parents who do. Population groups with migration backgrounds often have different blood group patterns, and some members of these groups may have rare blood group characteristics, potentially qualifying them for Switzerland’s Rare Donor File. So far, this national registry of donors with rare blood groups contains very few blood donors of non-European origin.

In a pilot project led by Swiss Transfusion SRC and funded by the Swiss Red Cross SRC, the Interregional Blood Transfusion Service Bern, the Regional Blood Transfusion Service SRC Basel and the cantonal SRC associations in Bern and Basel are working to improve this situation. The project’s aim is to inform people (e.g. from East or West Africa) about blood donation, motivate them to donate blood and, if necessary, accompany them to a donation appointment. To this end, the project is testing various models, which should serve both to reach the target group and to increase awareness of transcultural issues among professionals in this field.

The plan is that methods evaluated in Bern and Basel during the pilot phase will be available throughout Switzerland by 2025.

Reference laboratories: year-long tender process completed

In 2021, Swiss Transfusion SRC launched a new tender process for the provision of services as reference laboratories. In May 2022, the new contracts were approved by the board. As of 1 January 2023, the Blood Transfusion Service Zurich and Interregional Blood Transfusion Service Bern took up the mandate to serve as the National Reference Laboratory for Immunohaematology, which performs a comprehensive range of immunohaematological and molecular genetic tests and profiles. As of 2023, Blood Transfusion Service Zurich also took over the operation and further development of the national Rare Donor File, and this service is also increasing cooperation with leading laboratories around the world.
The Reference Laboratory for Infection Markers and the coordination office for the lookback procedures are based at Interregional Blood Transfusion Service Bern.