Stable blood supply

The supply situation was very stable in 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic; blood donation was possible throughout the year. Digital services were expanded.

It was possible to supply the blood product needs of the population in Switzerland throughout the entire year thanks to numerous protection measures and the solidarity of blood donors.

Fluctuating demand for blood

There were substantial fluctuations related to the Covid-19 pandemic in the amount of blood products needed by hospitals. Demand fell sharply during the lockdown phase in spring due to the postponement of all non-urgent, “elective” surgical procedures. Later, the situation normalised again. However, total demand over the whole year was down compared to 2019.

Demand for the key blood product, red cell concentrates (erythrocyte concentrates), declined by 3.4 per cent. Demand for thrombocyte concentrates (platelets) fell by 1.7 per cent, plasma demand by 6.1 per cent. The demand for red blood cell concentrates, which had been declining for years, had stabilised in 2019.

Blood donation always possible

The supply of blood products for the population was stable throughout the year. Donating blood was possible all year round; the regional blood transfusion centres remained open. Swiss Transfusion SRC arranged for uniform protection measures to be taken throughout the country and took on a coordination function. For instance, the organisation obtained an exemption permit from the Federal Department of Home Affairs allowing blood donation to continue during the lockdown phase. The Swiss Red Cross, for its part, took swift action to provide the blood transfusion services with the supplies they needed to protect their staff and blood donors, supplies that were extremely difficult to find at the start of the pandemic.

Solidarity from blood donors

Countless people stepped up to demonstrate solidarity with patients during the Covid-19 pandemic. Long-term donors continued to come in, and many new donors did as well. Their efforts compensated for the cancellation of large-scale drives, such as those normally held at universities or in companies.

Mobile blood donation activities had to be reduced for a time, partly because not all premises were capable of meeting the safety requirements. Nevertheless, mobile blood drives accounted for nearly as high a percentage (45%) of the national blood supply as they had in other years (2019: 48%). A total of 1694 blood drives (2019: 1950) took place in 826 communities (2018: 962). At 70.3, the average number of donations per drive was above that for 2019 (68.3 donations/drive).

Expiration rate up

Swiss Transfusion SRC strives to ensure the national supply of blood products while aligning procurement activities as closely as possible with demand. There were 266’161 units of blood donated in 2020 (2019: 271’624). This 2 per cent decrease lagged behind the 3.4 percent decline in the demand for red cell concentrates. The expiration rate, at 1.82 per cent, was therefore higher than the previous year’s rate (1.46%). Other European countries reported a similar increase in expiration rates associated with demand fluctuations during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Digital services

A new, stand-alone website for blood donation went online in 2020 in connection with a comprehensive redesign and restructuring of the Swiss Transfusion SRC website. The entry page replaces the previous blood donation app and is designed to meet the needs of donors. All donor services can be found there at a glance, including the online Travelcheck tool launched in June of 2020 to mark World Blood Donor Day. This tool allows blood donors to find out whether they are basically eligible to donate or will have wait for a certain period due to travel activity. The tool is based on the monitoring conducted by Swiss Transfusion SRC.

Another of the digital services developed by Swiss Transfusion SRC is the appointment scheduling system, which has been available to the regional transfusion services since 2019. It enables blood donors to schedule their own appointments to donate blood, an option that was very popular during the Covid-19 pandemic. Eventually, it should be possible to use the appointment scheduling system for blood donation nationwide.