Part 2: Keeping enough volunteer blood donors to meet the country's needs

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

In this Part, we set out our findings about how well the Blood Service:

Our overall finding

The Blood Service fosters and maintains the sustainable voluntary donor population that it needs to meet the demand for blood products.

How the New Zealand Blood Service understands what donors it needs to meet demand for blood and blood products

The Blood Service understands well how many and what kind of donors it needs to meet demand for blood products.

Keeping enough donors

The Blood Service successfully keeps enough donors to supply the country's demand for blood products. It forecasts that it will be able to keep doing so in coming years.

Figure 1 shows the number of whole blood and apheresis3 donors since 2008.

Figure 1
The actual and forecast number of whole blood and apheresis donors, 2008–2014

Figure 1 shows the actual and forecast number of whole blood and apheresis donors from 2008 to 2014.

Source: New Zealand Blood Service (2011), Annual Report 2010/2011 and other information from the New Zealand Blood Service.

The Blood Service aims to have at least 120,000 donors of whole blood each year, the number it believes it needs to maintain a safe level of blood products to meet New Zealand's needs. This minimum number has been static in recent years.4

Collecting and analysing blood-type and other data from donors helps the Blood Service to identify and forecast trends and to redirect resources if the donor population changes.

We found that the Blood Service considers the wider effects on its business when it sets targets for collecting blood. These include:

  • how targets will affect the need for current and future donors;
  • internal and external business implications;
  • logistics; and
  • costs.

Planning for changing demand

The Blood Service clearly plans to meet changing patterns in demand for blood products. For example, a notable trend – in New Zealand and internationally – is growth in demand for plasma. The Blood Service has analysed rates of plasma collecting and considered options for meeting the growing demand for plasma. It analysed trends and predicted demand using statistical data. As a result, the Blood Service has a clear preferred option for organising how it collects plasma and the facilities that it needs to meet the growing demand for plasma.

Targeting particular kinds of potential donors

The Blood Service targets specific groups as potential blood donors. Two major strategies it has put in place are a Māori Strategy and a Youth Strategy. The Blood Service introduced performance measures for these strategies in its Statement of Intent 1 July 2011-30 June 2014 (SOI)5 and will report against them in future annual reports. This shows that the Blood Service recognises how important it is to identify and target groups that donate less, or that the country will need more from, to ensure that it has the right number and type of donors to meet demand.

The Blood Service's Māori Strategy aims to increase the number of Māori blood donors. The SOI contains a new performance target: to increase the percentage of Māori in the active donor population to more than the 6% recorded in 2010/11. The Blood Service aims to improve how it works with Māori groups and to introduce steps to make it easier for Māori to donate blood.

The Blood Service's Youth Strategy is an appropriate initiative to address the implications of an ageing population and probable increased demand for blood products. In 2010/11, 18.8% of donors were aged between 19 and 25 years. The Youth Strategy aims to increase the percentage of young donors.

Targeting young people will help replace the increasing number of donors who can no longer donate blood because of age restrictions. Donors can continue to donate blood up to their 71st birthday. If they pass a yearly Blood Service health assessment, they may continue to donate until they are 76. However, the Blood Service sets an age limit of 60 years for new donors.

As part of its Youth Strategy, the Blood Service gives its staff comprehensive and useful information about marketing and organising events, and resources to help them target and engage potential donors at tertiary institutions.

How the New Zealand Blood Service cares for donors

The way that the Blood Service collects blood makes it convenient, safe, and comfortable for people to donate blood. Overall, the Blood Service has a clear focus on serving "customers" well and taking care of donors. The Blood Service acknowledges that donors volunteer their time and effort to give blood and that their contributions are essential.

Collecting blood conveniently and comfortably

The Blood Service has collection sites in the main urban centres. A mobile service collects blood from donors in smaller communities and some donors in the main cities. The Blood Service tries to ensure that its collection sites are comfortable and welcoming and reasonably meet the needs of donors. Collection sites are open on weekdays only, but have early opening times and are open at least one evening a week. The Blood Service does not currently collect blood on weekends, but, in 2012, will be investigating offering weekend appointments for apheresis donors.

To reduce waiting times for donors, the Blood Service uses a system of appointments. To fulfil collection targets, the Blood Service contacts and books appointments with specific donors according to their blood type or the blood product to be donated. The system is set up well to ensure that, to protect their safety, donors do not give blood again until they are eligible.6

Training staff to collect blood competently

The Blood Service thoroughly trains and assesses the competency of staff at its collection sites. As a result, the Blood Service can provide assurance that staff at collection sites are fully trained and competent in their roles to look after donors and ensure that procedures are as safe as possible.

All staff who collect blood must be registered nurses, enrolled nurses, or registered donor technicians. A comprehensive and well-structured module-based training programme for recruits includes rigorously assessing competency through self-study, classroom training, and on-the-job observing and examining.

Volunteers are valuable in helping to look after donors. They meet and greet donors at collection sites, and help with refreshments and administration. The Blood Service has a clear recruitment policy for volunteers and comprehensive guidelines to help volunteers fulfil their duties.

Ensuring that donors are satisfied with the quality of service

Blood donors are satisfied with the quality of service they receive and there is an adequate complaints process.

The Blood Service recognises that it is important for people to have a positive experience when giving blood because this influences how willing they will be to donate again. It surveys donors to measure satisfaction and uses survey feedback to improve the way it looks after donors and runs collection facilities.

Survey results show that the way that the Blood Service collects blood satisfies donors. For example, results from surveys in 2009 and 2010 found that, on average, 93% of survey respondents were either "very satisfied" or "satisfied" with the overall quality of service (with most answering "very satisfied").

The Blood Service has a nationally managed system for complaints and feedback from donors. This meets the Health and Disability Commissioner's requirements for handling complaints. The Blood Service has processes in place to acknowledge, investigate, and answer all complaints.

Communicating with donors and potential donors

The Blood Service communicates effectively with donors and potential donors to ensure appropriate numbers of donors.

The Blood Service communicates with donors and potential donors in many ways. It uses these methods to recruit and retain blood donors, and to explain how important it is to donate blood to save lives.

The Blood Service's marketing:

  • explains clearly how important donating blood is to saving lives;
  • simply and effectively describes the process of donating blood and what happens with donated blood;
  • uses new ways, including online social networking sites, email, and texting, to reach donors and potential donors; and
  • targets new donors (such as in recruitment campaigns at tertiary institutions).

The Blood Service's communications are guided by a detailed and thorough study of how best it can engage with donors and potential donors, especially through more use of electronic methods.

3: In apheresis, a machine first separates a donor's red blood cells from the plasma or platelets, and then returns the red cells to the donor. See Appendix 1 for more information.

4: In general, the Blood Service prefers regular repeat donors because they reduce the costs of recruiting donors, help maintain safety, and better understand the process of collecting blood.

5: New Zealand Blood Service (2011) Statement of Intent 1 July 2011-30 June 2014 is available at

6: For more information about eligibility, see "Detailed eligibility criteria" at

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