In addition to the stringent requirements of the Blood Safety and Quality Regulations (2005) that always apply to blood donation, the WHO has provided guidance to blood services on how we should maintain a safe and adequate blood supply during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Specifically, they advise that the guidance that public health bodies provide for health care settings does not apply to blood donation sessions that occur away from a hospital setting. All of our donation settings, including those at headquarters in Belfast, occur away from a hospital. More on the WHO advice can be found at https://www.who.int/publications-detail/maintaining-a-safe-and-adequate-blood-supply-during-the-pandemic-outbreak-of-coronavirus-disease-(covid-19)
The WHO advises that the public health advice for the general population applies to blood and platelet donation sessions. Currently, in the UK, the public health advice is that members of the public are not required to wear any form of personal protective equipment (PPE) as they go about their daily lives.
Additional Safety Measures: what you can do to keep everyone safe
We have completed detailed risk assessments of the donation process particularly at those points in the donation journey where it is impossible to maintain social distancing of two metres. We have put in place additional measures to ensure that donors and staff remain safe during donation. Some measures we will ask you as donors to follow.
Dos and Don’ts
- make an appointment to donate
- check that you meet the basic criteria to donate; see https://nibts.hscni.net/donating-blood/can-i-donate/
- ensure good hand hygiene by washing or sanitising your hands when you arrive at the donation session
- maintain cough and sneeze etiquette by using a clean tissue to catch your cough or sneeze, disposing of the tissue and washing or sanitising your hands immediately. If you don’t have a tissue (these will be provided on session) please cough or sneeze into the crook of your free arm
- attend for donation alone
- attend unless you have an appointment
- attend if you or someone in your household has been unwell for any reason (including tummy bugs or common cold) in the past 14 days
- attend if you have active hayfever or allergy symptoms including a runny nose and watering eyes
- bring children under 17 years of age with you when you donate
AT THE DONATION SESSION
We have introduced a number of additional measures to keep our donors and staff safe. We ask that you respect these.
- A member of staff will meet you at the entrance to the session and ask you about your general health in the past 14 days
- Your temperature will be checked on arrival
- Please respect the member of staff if you are advised that you are unable to donate today. We will be delighted to see you again very soon
- If you proceed to the donation session, you will be asked to clean your hands
- At this time, only donors will be able to access the donation area. We kindly ask that any friends or family who accompany you wait outside the donation venue for you
- Please do not share your pen with other donors or staff. You are welcome to use your own pen if you wish
- Once inside the donation session, waiting area chairs will be arranged so you can sit slightly separated from other donors. Please do not move the chairs closer together!
- At the refreshment table, please use the disposable cups provided. We ask that you do not bring your own cup or bottle at this time
We have changed the open access walk-in sessions to donation appointments. This allows us to limit the number of donors at the session at any one time which will enable reasonable social distancing in waiting areas. After you receive your normal invitation, you will be sent a text message detailing how you can contact us to make an appointment to donate.
Unfortunately, we have had to alter the location of some of our planned donation sessions at short notice as venues such as schools and colleges become unavailable. We may, therefore, ask you to attend an alternative location.
The current WHO advice is that masks should only be worn where a member of health care staff is treating a patient with suspected or confirmed Covid-19. This helps to ensure that limited stocks of masks are used by those health and care staff and patients who will benefit from them the most.
There is extensive coverage in the media about the pros and cons of mask wearing and how it may help to control the spread of infection. This debate is likely to intensify as we move closer to the relaxation of lockdown measures. We are keeping a close eye on these developments and will update our practices as required.
Whilst the wearing of masks is not essential during a donation session, they are available for staff to wear if they choose. Please do not worry if a member of staff chooses not to wear a mask as other infection prevention and control measures are in place to keep everyone at the donation session safe. Masks will be prioritised for use in health care settings such as hospitals, care homes and GP practices where patients are confirmed or suspected of having Covid-19.
We understand that you may have to look after children who are not able to attend school. However, children under the age of 17 will not be able to enter the donation session and we kindly request that you make alternative arrangements for childcare whilst you donate.
Thank you for your continued support of the Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service.