Inside the giant UK center, receive lifesaving blood from donor to recipient

Sitting for an hour and giving a pint is your job done but for blood it is just the beginning of a great journey.

To see what happens, next, I followed some donations on the way to Britain’s largest processing plant.

The white blood cells that can cause an unwanted immune response are filtered out, then what is left is separated into red blood cells, plasma, and platelets.

Blood is delivered to the processing center in Filton, Glos by truck daily.

NHS Blood and Transplant’s main production center on the outskirts of Bristol processes more than one million units annually.

I watched as this particularly complex service quickly delivered hospital and ambulances that deliver the right type of blood product to their patients. Getting these commands wrong can be fatal.

Andrew Barker with Martin Bagot



Cages containing the blood tanks are removed from trucks and vans before being transported to the docking area where they are scanned and barcoded.

Andrew Barker, operations manager, told me: “If we get a local blood donation, some of these bags arrive still warm. That can make some people feel a little nauseous.”

To remove white cells, the donated blood is suspended from two junction bags so that the contents flow through a small filter.

The white cells cannot be used so they are removed and burned.

The remaining blood is transferred into individual bags and given to a laboratory worker, who spins them in a centrifuge.

The dense red cells sink to the bottom, pushing the lighter plasma upwards.

NHS Blood and Transplant’s main production center on the outskirts of Bristol processes 1.3 million units a year



Then, the two elements are separated by placing each bag in a plasma press out of the top of the bag.

Jade Hunt, technical officer, said: “It is a really rewarding job. That’s always what I’ve wanted to do.

“It is important to have the necessary information for our system. We just wanted to make sure there was enough to go around.”

Plasma is an amber liquid made up of important proteins. It makes up 55% of the total blood volume of the body.

It must be frozen quickly to avoid metamorphosis. Once solid, it is sent to storage at -40C, where it can last up to three years. About 176,000 units were processed at Filton last year.

But if there is no plasma protein, the red blood cells will naturally start to die from this point so preservatives are added.

“This gives the red blood cells some food so they can survive,” explains Andrew.

If your blood was among the 1.3 million units processed at Filton last year, it almost certainly got into someone else, and possibly quickly.

Donations can go to another patient within 48 hours, and up to three people can benefit from each donation, potentially saving their life and definitely improving them.

The bags of red blood cells are placed on a conveyor belt to a walk-in refrigerator, where they can last up to 35 days.

But not before the platelets are removed.

Donating blood can save lives


Getty/Purestock Image)

“These are the things that travel to the site of cuts and blood clots,” explains Andrew. They are often used for major injuries.” Platelets have a shelf life of only seven days.

While all of this was going on, a parallel testing process was checking sample bags for infections including HIV and malaria.

If anything that could be dangerous is detected, a “hold” on the main blood bag will be activated immediately.

Blood service also has another trick.

Using the correct ratio of red blood cells, plasma, and platelets in each patient maximizes the benefits of each blood donation.

The central planning department keeps track of how much blood is needed by which doctors and when.

The planning process has meant more lives saved per donation in recent years.

This efficiency is why Filton handled 6.5% less blood last year compared to the previous year. But despite this, Britain faces a shortage of 75,000 new regular donors this year, to allow services to recover from the pandemic disruption.

Blood arrives and leaves Filton by truck 24 hours a day



Register as a blood donor today and play your part in the recovery of the NHS.

Patients need blood year-round and the NHS needs to ensure a steady supply.

In some areas of the country, there are appointment limits for first-time donors, so if you can’t find a spot right away, please search weeks or months in advance.

Visit or call 0300 123 23 23 to sign up and start saving lives.

‘Blood transfusion gave me a chance to live a normal life’

Nick Anglin, who has sickle cell disease

Nick, 33, was born with sickle cell disease, which means he needs new blood every few months.

The genetic condition means his red blood cells are crescent-shaped instead of round and damage tissue by causing painful blockages.

Nick, from Milton Keynes, overcame the pain until his mid-20s when his condition deteriorated and he suffered attacks of priapism.

This leaves many people with sickle cell disease in the form of painful erections and abdominal pains, which may require hospitalization to draw blood from the penis.

“It was scary, I would have pain in my back so I couldn’t stand,” he explained. At the time he was working in sales. “I talked to everyone,” he said. I’m going to be in a lot of pain but have to hide it until I’m on the street. I ended up with A&E a lot. “

Image of Nick Anglin suffering from sickle cell disease during a blood transfusion


Adam Gerrard / Daily Mirror)

Sickle cell disease causes blockage of blood vessels, which can lead to a fatal stroke or damage to major organs.

Nick relies on morphine for pain and sometimes requires emergency blood transfusions. He said: “When I was 30 years old, I was in a coma for eight days after having a stroke. I had to quit my job.”

Around the same time, his kidneys began to fail, so Nick had to go on dialysis three days a week until last week, when he finally received an organ transplant.

For the past three years, Nick has required a blood change every eight to 10 weeks, when his sickle-shaped blood cells are replaced with up to 14 liters of healthy, genetically matched red blood cells. .

“These things gave me the chance to have a normal life,” he said. “I wouldn’t be able to live without it.”

I can’t believe how easy and complete it is

Kevin Maguire, Editor-in-Chief of Mirror

Personally, my best bet to donate a liter of blood is now a quick five minutes and 36 seconds.

That was the time from when the needle went painlessly into my left arm to the beeping noise the bag was full of.

My times are pretty quick, usually between 5 and 10 minutes. However, Clare Moxon who took care of me used to oversee a 3.40 ratio.

The donor transfusion service’s call has finally gnawed at my conscience to bridge the 30-year gap since I last visited. This time I couldn’t believe how easy, satisfying and fun it was.

The NHS the team was brilliant, Clare and colleagues Dan, Eleanor and Michael have demonstrated the ability to relax visitors and suck blood even from a stone like myself.

The Mirror’s editorial collaborator Kevin Maguire gives blood in central London


Phil Harris)

Inside the makeshift center at the Episcopal Institute of London, there’s a sense of excitement and optimism.

Nurse Eleanor asked me if I had any health problems and I laughed when I said Boris Johnson.

Leaning back on a chair cum bed to do work is as relaxing as soaking in a warm bath. And after the pints are delivered, there are snacks. Once they believe you won’t get dizzy, you’ll leave with a thank you.

In and out was 40 minutes, a bit longer than usual as I was considered a first timer. With such a warm welcome, even Dracula was happy to donate blood.

A wide range of benefits

The components

Blood is made up of several components including red blood cells, platelets, and plasma.

Each of these can be used to treat a variety of conditions.

Blood is often separated into its individual components, so patients can be given the specific ingredient they need.

This helps make the most of any donation, as the components in a unit of blood can be used to treat different patients. This means that a single donation can help up to three lives.

red cells

Red blood cells contain hemoglobin, which distributes oxygen to body tissues and carries waste carbon dioxide back to the lungs.

A transfusion of red blood cells replaces the heavy loss of blood that can occur in an accident, during surgery, or during childbirth.

The cells are used to treat all types of anemia including those caused by cancer, rheumatism arthritis and sickle cell disease and those found in neonates.

They are also used for volume replacement in patients with bleeding.


Plasma is an amber liquid made up of important proteins that make up 55% of the body’s total blood volume and carry all blood cells.

There is a global shortage of plasma and from 1999 until last year the UK relied on imported donations from the US due to the Government’s ban on donated plasma here, due to concerns about protein transmission. cause mad cow disease.

Plasma transfusion can be important for people who have lost the ability to clot, such as those with acute liver failure.


Platelets are small cells in our blood that help it clot and prevent bleeding

They are used by patients with cancer and blood disorders, as well as some people undergoing major surgery such as a stem cell transplant, liver transplant, or heart surgery.

The NHS collects platelets from whole blood donors and from dedicated platelet donors with specific blood types.

Platelets collected from specialized platelet donors are important for infants, children, and patients with rare diseases.

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Read more Inside the giant UK center, receive lifesaving blood from donor to recipient

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