NHS Blood - Give Blood England and Wales

History of blood transfusion

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This section tells the story so far of the National Blood Service.

1628

William Harvey, leading physician of his day, is the first to demonstrate that blood circulates round the body.

1657

Sir Christopher Wren takes time out from designing cathedrals to inject some fluids into the circulation of animals, using equipment developed by William Harvey.

1666

In the same year that London burns, Richard Lower performs the first successful transfusion, albeit on an animal.

1667

Samuel Pepys scribbles in his notes that experiments have been taking place at the Royal Society, transfusing blood from one dog to another.

1818

While poets like Keats, Shelley and Byron are all wandering around being romantic, Dr James Blundell is being altogether more practical and conducts transfusions in cases of haemorrhages after childbirth.

1900

Dr Karl Landsteiner, a leading doctor in Vienna, discovers that blood comes in 4 main groups - A, B, AB and O - and suddenly everybody realises where they've been going wrong for the last 272 years.

1914 to 1918

Two major advances take place out of need to relieve the pressure caused by trying to save lives during the Great War. The first is the discovery that blood could be prevented from clotting once it's removed from the body by mixing it with sodium citrate. And like most things, they also discover that blood can last a bit longer if it's put in a fridge.

1921

Two major advances take place out of need to relieve the pressure caused by trying to save lives during the Great War. The first is the discovery that blood could be prevented from clotting once it's removed from the body by mixing it with sodium citrate. And like most things, they also discover that blood can last a bit longer if it's put in a fridge.

1936

The Americans open the world's first blood bank at Cook County Hospital, Chicago.

1937

And we in Britain open our first blood bank in Ipswich.

1939

After the outbreak of war, things really kick off with four large civilian centres being set up near London and at an Army centre near Bristol.

1940

While the war rages, obviously there is a greater need for blood so the emergency medical services and the Army set up eight regional transfusion centres. And thousands of civilians do their bit for the country by donating, saving the lives of many servicemen and civilians.

1946

The National Blood Service is launched (under the name Blood Transfusion Service).

1948

The National Health Service is set up in England and North Wales (yes, the National Blood Service came first). But right from the start, a strong partnership is established between the two.

1975

While everyone is busy wearing flares and having bad hair, the National Blood Service quietly gets on with replacing glass bottles with plastic blood bags, and therefore allowing a much wider use of blood components.

1986

HIV testing is introduced.

1991

And just as importantly, testing for hepatitis C is introduced.

1996

The National Blood Service celebrates 50 years of saving lives with a cup of tea and a biscuit.

1998

And the National Health Service celebrates their 50th. The links between the two bodies are as strong as they always were.

> Blood Group Basics

History of blood transfusion

This section tells the story so far of the National Blood Service. Drag the circle left and right to view the history.

> Blood Group Basics

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