Guidance now available for the Appropriate Specification of Emergency Red Cells

29 October 2020

The Transfusion Laboratory Managers working group of the National Blood Transfusion Committee have published guidance on the appropriate specification of emergency red cells.

The recommended specification is: 

  • Males: use O D positive red cells
  • Women >51 years of age: use O D positive red cells
  • Women and children: use O D negative, K negative red cells (CMV - to be considered only in the maternity setting) 

Julie Staves, chair of the group, writes:

“As a working group, we are concerned about the supplies of O D negative blood available nationally, especially in the light of the second wave of the COVID 19 pandemic now being upon us. We are very much aware that NHSBT are focused on trying to ensure there is sufficient supplies of all components being available for everyone. However, there is only a limited amount of donors available and we, as laboratories also need to look at our own practises to help ensure that the supplies of all components but especially O D negative red cells are used in the most appropriate manner. The supply of highly specific O D negative red cells adds pressures to the supply chain and impacts considerably on the availability for us all. 

We are asking,  as colleagues that you read this paper and consider your own laboratory practises making changes as you can. Small changes to practise really can help the national supply chain and help to ensure there is availability of O D negative units for every hospital and every patient who potentially may require it.”

Guidance on the general appropriate use of O D negative is available and we encourage you to follow this also.

Chris Philips - Head of Hospital Customer Service, NHSBT 
Julie Staves - Chair of the Transfusion Laboratory Managers working group of NBTC Transfusion Laboratory Manager, Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust