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).