Auditor-General's overview

New Zealand Blood Service: Managing the safety and supply of blood products.

Our health system needs a reliable supply of safe blood. Cancer, burns, and surgery patients and people with bleeding disorders all rely on blood products, which are vital medicines used to save lives. Each year, our hospitals use blood products to treat more than 40,000 people.

The New Zealand Blood Service (the Blood Service) is pivotal in effectively and safely providing blood and blood products, and is one of a few organisations in the world that provide a full "vein-to-vein" nationally integrated blood service. The Blood Service is involved in all stages of transfusing blood from donors to recipients. This includes collecting, testing, processing, and distributing blood and blood products.

My staff carried out a performance audit that found that the Blood Service effectively supplies safe blood and blood products to patients in our health system. This is a "good news" story. The Blood Service is a high-performing organisation and we have no improvements to recommend.

This country is fortunate in having enough blood for our needs. This self-sufficiency is the direct result of the generosity of volunteer blood donors. The success of the Blood Service in fostering and retaining volunteer donors has helped to achieve this.

The Blood Service is:

  • planning well to meet future demand for different blood products;
  • targeting younger people as potential donors; and
  • working to encourage more Māori to become regular donors.

The Blood Service acts effectively and efficiently to meet the performance targets in its Statement of Intent. This includes accurately measuring how it performs and monitoring changes in demand for blood products. It uses the high-quality information this provides to support well-informed decision-making and make continuous improvement. It is also efficient in its operations.

The Blood Service manages its risks well by monitoring and analysing all incidents and knowing when it must treat such incidents more seriously. Hospitals' reports indicate that there are few transfusion-related incidents. The Blood Service reports regularly on all incidents that are escalated to senior managers and the Blood Service Board.

A meaningful core value – "Safety is our cornerstone" – guides the way that the Blood Service works and manages the safety of donors, blood and blood products, and the people who receive Blood Service medicines.

There is a strong sense of "customer care" throughout the Blood Service – staff recognise the generosity of donors and treat blood donations as gifts that they need to look after carefully and use effectively to help people. This has resulted in high levels of satisfaction among donors with the way that the Blood Service collects blood.

The Blood Service's operations receive much external scrutiny. The Blood Service takes this scrutiny seriously, carefully considering all recommendations. Where relevant, it creates action plans to ensure that it acts on recommendations and improves.

Where appropriate, the Blood Service ensures that it operates in line with international best practice. It takes part in many international forums and groups that aim to make blood transfusion medicine and services better and safer.

I am pleased to report on this high-performing organisation. Some important success factors that I commend to other organisations underpin the Blood Service's effectiveness and efficiency. These factors include:

  • clear performance targets;
  • planning and making decisions using accurate, relevant, and timely information about service demand and performance;
  • managing risks effectively;
  • a focus on managing issues and stakeholders critical to achieving its core purpose effectively;
  • being open to scrutiny; and
  • learning and making continuous improvements.

I thank the staff of the Blood Service and the Ministry of Health for their help with our audit.

Signature - LP

Lyn Provost
Controller and Auditor-General

8 February 2012

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