Blood Supply:

Availability of Blood to Meet the Nation's Requirements

HEHS-99-187R: Published: Sep 20, 1999. Publicly Released: Sep 23, 1999.

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William J. Scanlon
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the availability of blood to meet the nation's requirements, focusing on: (1) recent trends in blood donation and the demand for blood transfusions; (2) the expected effect of a ban on blood from donors who have travelled to the United Kingdom; and (3) the potential effect of policy changes to allow units of blood collected from individuals with hemochromatosis to be distributed.

GAO noted that: (1) GAO found that, while there is cause for concern about shortages of certain blood types or in certain regions, the blood supply as a whole is not in crisis; (2) GAO believes that the National Blood Data Resource Center (NBDRC) study overstates the decline in the blood supply; (3) most of the decline found by NBDRC was in donations targeted for specific individuals, not in the community supply of blood available to anyone in need; (4) further, the projection relies on data from only 2 years, the most recent of which is now 2 years old; (5) the United Kingdom donor exclusion policy has been estimated to reduce the blood supply by approximately 2.2 percent; (6) blood banks fear that the actual loss due to this exclusion will be greater, but it is not possible to assess the accuracy of these estimates; (7) while the estimates of the potential increase in the blood supply from donations by individuals with hemochromatosis vary widely, most of these increases could not occur until regulations are changed; and (8) therefore, such donations will not affect the available blood supply for some time.

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