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Don’t assume, verify: how to halt transfusion errors

Giving the wrong blood can be fatal, but stricter routines and electronic tracking are helping to reduce the hazards of transfusion

Giving the wrong blood can be fatal, but stricter routines and electronic tracking are helping to reduce the hazards of transfusion

Having a blood transfusion has probably never been safer, but this has only been achieved with constant vigilance by all involved.

A transfusion involves nine steps, often with a different healthcare professional involved in each one. There are numerous opportunities for errors, the consequences of which can be fatal.

These errors are analysed each year in the annual Serious Hazards of Transfusion (SHOT) report. Over the past 20 years this has looked at the changing picture of safety in blood transfusion, with some issues rising in importance and others diminishing.

Reducing harm

But the role of healthcare professionals in reducing harm remains vital. Around 85% of the incidents reported to SHOT are errors, usually involving

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