Nov Zine 2014

Page 18

by Dave Thomas

Giving blood in the Netherlands

Photos courtesy of Sanquin

behind the scenes at Sanquin


ocated behind Amsterdam Sloterdijk

How can I give blood in the Netherlands?

My blood’s not blue it’s British!

Cancer Institute, Sanquin (pronounced

currently not permitted to give blood in the

are four basic blood groups: O, A, B and AB.

hospital, next to the Netherlands

sanqueen) is a unique three-in-one

organisation for blood: blood bank, blood research centre and manufacturer of

medicines from plasma. The name Sanquin is derived fro the French word for blood

‘sanguine’, and the Latin word for blood

‘sanguis’. The organisation employs about 2800 people (60% part-time).

Unfortunately many Zine readers are

Netherlands. If you have been in the UK for a total of more than six months between 1 January 1980 and 31 December 1996

then there is a risk you might be carrying Creutzfeld-Jakob (mad cow) disease. As

As you might remember from school there

But the number of people with each blood group differs per country. Us Brits aren’t quite the same as the Dutch. Blood group

% of Brits

% of Dutch







However, all other foreign nationals aged




donate blood. Donating blood is voluntary




blood cannot be tested for this disease, the Dutch authorities have decided to

exclude anybody who might carry it from giving blood.

between 18 and 65 years are eligible to

in the Netherlands. Donors are not paid

for their service like they are in some other

countries. You can register on a special page

of the Sanquin website (https://www.sanquin. nl/en/register-as-a-blood-donor/). After

registration you will receive an information Blood transfusion: a British first

The British pioneered blood transfusion. In 1818 gynaecologist James Blundell performed the first successful blood

transfusion and in 1921 Sir Percy Oliver

set up the first public blood transfusion service in London. The first blood

transfusion in the Netherlands took place in Rotterdam in 1925. Through a long series of reorganisations the blood banks in the

Netherlands and the central blood research laboratory became a single organisation in 1997.

package and an invitation to attend a blood

donor health check. During this health check your blood will be tested and your blood

type determined. If the test results are good, you will be invited to donate blood at a later date. On average donors give blood 1.6

times per year. For plasma donors (the liquid without blood cells) the average number of donations is 5.9 per year.

What happens to the blood you give?

In a major logistics operation, blood from the donor centres is collected and brought to

Sanquin for testing. At a suite of labs it takes just two employees and some high-tech

equipment to screen 12,000 blood samples in scarcely 24 hours. This process is vital to

guarantee the safety of blood donated, for

example to make sure it is free from HIV and hepatitis. The blood type is also checked:

giving a patient the wrong blood type can

be fatal. Some blood types are very rare (the

ABO blood type is not the only one). Sanquin therefore has a deep-frozen supply of over 70 rare blood types that can be sent to

anywhere in Europe at a moment’s notice. The blood donated is mainly used by

Dutch hospitals but Sanquin also supplies

4000 units of blood per year to various UN peacekeeping missions around the world. The demand for blood from hospitals has

fallen in recent years. One reason is the rise in keyhole surgery where a minimum of

blood is lost during the operation. However, this does not mean that fewer donors are needed. New donors are always being

sought to replace donors who stop (about 10% per year).

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