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Iraq: Peacekeeping Operations

Volume 471: debated on Wednesday 30 January 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what steps his Department is taking to ensure that blood transfusions given to soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan are screened effectively before use. (179644)

For use in routine transfusions, deployed UK military hospitals maintain stocks of blood sourced from UK National Blood Service (NBS) donor centres, which screen and test their donors according to nationally mandated standards. For most patients, this licensed blood is all that is used for their trauma care.

However, in circumstances when standard blood stocks might not be appropriate where the properties of whole fresh blood are needed, an emergency blood transfusion from donors at a field hospital on or near the battlefield can be the only way of saving lives of gravely wounded UK personnel.

To enable blood to be obtained in such an emergency, UK field hospitals have an Emergency Donor Panel (EDP), consisting of a group of pre-screened volunteer donors who are available to donate blood at short notice. The volunteer donors will have been screened for suitability in accordance with UK NBS guidelines prior to deployment. Prior to donating at an EDP, a further check is made through use of a health questionnaire and an examination of the veins. Blood samples are taken to confirm the blood group, and for retrospective testing by the UK NBS to confirm that the blood transfused remained free from Transfusion Transmitted Infections.

Coalition partners in both Iraq and Afghanistan have their own procedures in place for pre- and post-screening of blood obtained from their equivalent of an EDP. If a seriously-injured UK casualty is being treated in a coalition medical facility, they may be given a life-saving transfusion of such blood for the same reasons as apply in a UK field hospital, and using the same procedures as would be used to treat one of their own nationals. We co-operate closely with coalition partners in developing world-class life-saving combat medical care work, and in reviewing procedures where appropriate.