With the objective to enhance blood safety at all levels in 2008, the Government of Pakistan initiated a comprehensive reform process of the Blood Transfusion System through support from the German Government. The reforms are based on the internationally recommended model of a nationally coordinated blood transfusion system, in which the Safe Blood Transfusion Programmes of seven federating units harmonize their approaches gradually introduce functional separation between Regional Blood Centers (now under constructions) and restructured and refurbished Hospital Blood Banks.
Since the establishment of the Safe Blood Transfusion Programme in 2010, the Programme in coordination with the German and other partners has been able to deliver a series of outputs which were important inputs into the ongoing safe blood transfusion system reform process. Key target audiences for these outputs include (1) blood bank technicians (operational guidelines, tools and instructions), (2) hospital administrations (hospital transfusion committees), (3) clinicians in the field of haemotherapy (clinical use of blood), (4) academia (institutes of education and training and their regulatory bodies), (5) blood transfusion sector governance bodies (laws, policies), and (6) the general public (awareness on voluntary and replacement donation).
The Programme has been able to establish strong working relations with all stakeholders from the entire country. These include the technical level of blood bank laboratory staff, the public health administrations of provinces, representatives of the regulatory bodies for medical sciences and blood transfusion, the broad spectrum of private organizations, many of which are dealing with the biggest burden for the blood transfusion system in the country, the thalassaemia patients. The Programme has been able to bring the stakeholders on a joint platform (e.g. concerning VNRBD, MIS, the basic design of Regional Blood Centers and Hospital Blood Banks, law and regulatory authorities, etc.). The interaction with the different stakeholders has deepened the SBT Programmes understanding of the existing diversity in terms of structures, technology, human resource capacity and overall organization.
The Programme is successfully progressing despite some challenges and the new infrastructure development work involving construction and equipment procurements is well underway. The first phase of this development work is expected to be completed by the end of 2014. In the meantime, the technical cooperation component is proceeding ahead with its work to train a suitable trained work force to work in the new system and also in the existing centers. The establishment and strengthening of the Pakistan Haemovigilance Network and the Blood Donor Organization Network are on the priority list of the Programme. The Programme, since its inception in 2010, is regularly publishing a monthly e-newsletter with activities and updates on transfusion medicine from across the country to keep all national and international partners informed of the progress.
The second phase of the project is to be initiated in 2014, and will be implemented in parallel with the first phase which will be completed soon.
With the establishment of the Blood Transfusion Programmes at the national and provincial levels and nearing completion of the first phase of the project, the foundation has thus now been laid in Pakistan for a system which will ensure adequate and nationwide access to safe, efficacious and affordable blood supply.
Prof. Hasan Abbas Zaheer, PhD
Safe Blood Transfusion Programme
Government of Pakistan.