Reducing wastage of blood and blood products

Blood is a precious resource generously donated by non-remunerated donors in Australia yet, the collection, processing, testing and distribution of blood and blood products incur significant costs. Nowadays the cost is clearly identified on the product label, which is indicative of the manufacturing costs. Details of the costs can be found within the National Blood Authority’s National Product Price List (external site).

Blood and blood products are used in hospitals across Australia every day to save lives. A certain level of discards of blood and blood products is both inevitable and appropriate to ensure that products are available where and when they are clinically necessary. We face additional challenges in WA with our geographical remoteness and seasonal weather changes.  However, there is a proportion of discards of blood and blood products that is neither inevitable nor appropriate which is defined as wastage. In 2017/18 WA red cell discard rate was 4.9%, significantly higher than the national average of 2.2%.

Minimisation of the wastage of blood and blood products is a key requirement of the Statement of National Stewardship Expectations for the Supply of Blood and Blood Products, endorsed by Australian Health Ministers in November 2010, and National Safety and Quality Health Service (NSQHS) Standard (Standard 7, Blood Management). The National Blood and Blood Product Wastage Reduction Strategy 2013-17 (the Strategy) has been developed by the National Blood Authority (NBA) to reduce the unnecessary wastage of blood and blood products (external site).

The Office of the Chief Medical Officer (OCMO) initiated the WA Blood Discard Reduction Project in late 2018 to understand the root causes for WA’s disproportionately high rate of red cell discards, whether these root causes could be addressed and to develop appropriate strategies to rectify them.

Key outcomes from this project include:

  • Extensive stakeholder engagement with public, private, metropolitan and rural Approved Health Providers (AHP’s)
  • Improved Department of Health (WA) understanding of current inventory management and stock rotation practices by WA AHP’s
  • Identification of significant differences in reasons for red cell discards between Metropolitan and Rural AHP’s
  • Identification of challenges and barriers to stock rotation by WA AHP’s
  • Addressing of data issues related to the accuracy and level of detail of red cell discards
  • Increased awareness of avoidable red cell discards by WA AHP’s
  • Improvements to inventory and stock rotation practices by WA AHP’s
  • Improved engagement between Hospital Executive, Hospital transfusion committees and AHP’s
Inventory management

A key aspect of reducing avoidable waste is to ensure good inventory management, which includes setting appropriate stock levels to balance having sufficient products to meet the clinical need, whilst ensuring wastage rates are kept at a minimum. Managers should monitor their inventory and plan ahead when demand for blood products may change i.e. over the Christmas period when elective surgical activity decreases.

BloodNet (external site) is Australia’s online blood ordering and inventory management system which allows AHP’s to order products from the Australian Red Cross Blood Service.

The National Blood Authority have developed a wide range of resources to support good inventory management (external site).

The NBA have produced a poster '10 tips to help manage your blood product inventory’ (external site).

The Victorian Blood Matters programme have developed an audit tool designed to measure the crossmatch to transfusion ratio within surgical cases (external site), which is a useful tool in supporting good inventory management.

Tools and resources

The South Australian BloodSafe Program have produced a range of registers for recording the receipt, wastage and issue of blood and blood products (external site), to ensure cold chain requirements are met and reduce wastage through incorrect storage.

Blood Matters have developed a range of resources aimed at reducing the wastage of red cells over the festive period (external site).

In addition, Blood Matters have downloadable resources to demonstrate cold chain compliance (external site).

The Australian Red Cross Blood Service have a range of resources available to ensure wastage is minimised (external site).

Further information

Members of the Blood Unit are available from Monday to Friday during the hours of 8.30 am to 4.30 pm.

Blood Unit
Office of the Chief Medical Officer
Level 3, GPO Building
3 Forrest Place
Perth WA 6000
Phone: 6373 2321

Last reviewed: 09-11-2022
Produced by

WA Blood Management