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The NBS's 15 regional centres collect, test, process, store and issue 2.1 million donations of blood from around the country. The products processed by the service include blood, blood components, products made from blood and tissues.
The provision of safe blood products for NHS patients demands an array of testing and quality control procedures. At its blood centres, NBS measures more than 30 different parameters, including red cell count, ratio of white cells to plasma and the incidence of various constituents.
Two of Northwest Analytical's programmes, NWA Quality Analyst and NWA Quality Monitor, help to protect the integrity of the service and its output.
NWA Quality Monitor is used to record data. "Almost all of our quality data is entered manually and there is potential for accidental alteration of information," says Peter Cheesley of NBS. "But Quality Monitor security means that data is protected. Out-of-specification situations are flagged up on the data screen, preventing poor data being recorded and alerting us to any trends that may affect the quality of our products," said Cheesley.
The early pick-up of trends is vital to the work of NBS, he explained. "When a centrifuge starts to slow down, it will affect the cell count or proportion of plasma in a given blood product, Quality Analyst shows up the trend before the occurrence of out-of-specification and means that blood is not wasted or scrapped."