Rapid growth in the demand for blood products could cause national supply to dwindle

JUNE 26, 2024 (OTTAWA) – Appointment bookings at Canadian Blood Services’ blood and plasma donor centres across the country are not keeping pace with the rise in demand for blood products.  

Demand for blood products was stable for nearly a decade, and at times even declined slightly. Now, hospital demand is quickly rising. While there is a dedicated group of people who have been donating blood and plasma regularly, there are simply not enough people donating to meet the growing demand. New donors are needed to help keep the national blood supply well stocked.  

Currently, only about 80 per cent of the available appointments are booked each week, leaving the national supply at risk of falling short as the summer rolls on and the supply dwindles. Patients are counting on people making the time to donate, to ensure a steady supply of blood and blood products.  

“Today more patients need blood products than we have seen over the past decade,” says Dr. Kathryn Webert, medical director for Canadian Blood Services. “This is because there has been an increase in surgeries and treatments that require blood transfusions. The population is both growing and aging, and the number of patients with diseases that are treated with blood products is going up.” 

Blood products play a critical role in everyday medical care. Many people with various health conditions require regular transfusion therapy. For example, a person living with thalassemia could need blood every two to five weeks, and a person living with leukemia may need blood from up to 8 donors every week. 

In addition, new studies showing the benefit of blood and products made from plasma, as well as advances in medical care that allow for treating some conditions more aggressively are putting increased pressure on existing inventories.   

“Blood transfusions have a positive impact on patient health and recovery,” says Dr. Webert. “Donors are playing a lead role in saving lives. But without enough donors contributing to the blood supply, physicians may need to make difficult decisions about when and where to use transfusions. It is vital that every available appointment is filled to avoid a negative impact to patient care.”  

More people are donating blood now than this time last year. Over the past several years, of the people eligible to donate, only 1 in 81 did. Canadian Blood Services has been successful in growing its donor base, and today 1 in 76 donate blood. But despite the growth, still more donors are required to match the growing need.  

Every week, there are approximately 4,500 appointments going unfilled 

Because of the growing need for blood products, more than 146,000 appointments across the country need to be filled before the September long weekend, to ensure patient care is not impacted.  

To keep pace with the growing demand, new donors of all blood types are needed, but is particularly vital that people with group O blood donate as soon as they can.  

“As the universal blood type that can be given to any patient, O-negative donations are critically important in emergency care,” Dr. Webert explains. “When seconds count, and there is no time to check a patient’s blood type, they are given O-negative blood. O-positive blood can be given to any patient with positive Rh blood type.”  

Hospitals have the blood they need today, but that could change if appointments aren’t filled 

Today, hospitals continue to receive the blood and blood products they require but it is crucial that more people donate this summer to keep pace with the growing demand and to ensure the blood supply is prepared for unexpected emergencies.   

You can be part of the solution. If you’ve never donated before, there is no better time to start. Recent changes to donation criteria means that many people who weren’t able to donate in the past, might be able to now.  

If you are an existing donor, you can double your impact and help grow the community by inviting a new donor to join you when you make your appointment this summer.

Book an appointment now on blood.ca, use the GiveBlood app or call 1 888 2 DONATE (1-888-236-6283). 

About Canadian Blood Services 

Canadian Blood Services is a not-for-profit charitable organization. Regulated by Health Canada as a biologics manufacturer and primarily funded by the provincial and territorial ministries of health, Canadian Blood Services operates with a national scope, infrastructure and governance that make it unique within Canadian healthcare. In the domain of blood, plasma and stem cells, we provide services for patients on behalf of all provincial and territorial governments except Quebec. The national transplant registry for interprovincial organ sharing and related programs reaches into all provinces and territories, as a biological lifeline for Canadians. 

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