A photograph of Julie Staves working in the laboratory

"The change in transfusion has been incredible"

Keeping on top of the supply of blood products for three major hospitals is all in a day's work for transfusion laboratory manager, Julie Staves

Tell us about your role as a transfusion laboratory manager
I manage three laboratories for a large hospital trust based in Oxford. The labs are sited at three separate hospitals 30 miles apart (John Radcliffe Hospital and Churchill Hospital in Oxford and Horton General Hospital based in Banbury). The main role of the labs is to test patient samples and provide blood products for patients. It's a very busy department, issuing up to 200 units of blood products a day, we never close and no two days are ever the same. I manage the day to day activities of the laboratory as well as looking towards the future and the how we can continue to meet the needs of the patients.
What did you do before taking this role?
I've worked in hospital laboratories since I left university. I trained in London, moving to Oxford in 2000 to take up my current role.
What does your typical day involve?
I'm usually in work by 7am. The first job is to catch up with the staff who have been working overnight and then check on our blood product stocks and order what we need from our local NHSBT centre. I then catch up on office work.

The routine day starts at 8.30, when the rest of the day staff arrive. This means checking everyone is here and assigning people with the day's tasks.

Once the day has got going I can be doing a number of things - from handling complex and difficult investigations on patient samples, through liaising with medical staff and meetings.

Most of my days are very varied and my priority is always the smooth running of the laboratories so there is always a continuous supply of blood.
"I get a lot of satisfaction in knowing that we have helped save someone's life or helped ensure they have a better life."
What projects have you worked on that patients may be benefiting from currently?
The biggest project I've worked on over a number of years is the development of an electronic blood transfusion system. This is a system which uses handheld computers to ensure patients receive the correct blood products. We first started working on this in 2001 and it is now in all clinical areas of our trust and is available commercially. We know it has prevented patients receiving blood which was intended for another patient, and will have saved lives.
What changes have you seen in blood transfusion practice since you started working in this role?
The change in blood transfusion in the last ten years has been incredible. Hospital laboratories are now covered by UK legislation which has helped improve standards. The introduction of a faster method of providing blood for patients has meant that most blood can be available in ten minutes.

The biggest development is the increased use of IT; being involved from the early days of using IT to ensure safe transfusions has been very satisfying, but the real benefit is the reduced risk to patients.
A photograph of Julie Staves working in the laboratory

Julie and her team issue up to 200 units of blood products every day.

Which projects are you currently working on and how will this help patients in the future?
I'm currently working on a project looking at how NHSBT distributes blood products to hospitals. It is in the early stages but will hopefully result in more products being available in the location that they are required, and when a patient needs a product there will be a greater chance it is available quickly, rather then it having to be transported from elsewhere.

Within my Trust, we are looking at how blood products are used and how medical staff decide if a transfusion is needed. We hope to change the electronic system so it can advise medical staff about the appropriate use of blood products and prevent blood from being used unnecessarily.
What would you say is the best part of your job?
It's probably the variety and the fact that it gives me the opportunity to make a real difference to how transfusion practise is developing. I get a lot of satisfaction in knowing that we have helped save someone's life or helped ensure they have a better life.
What would you say to people to encourage them to sign up to become blood donors?
Blood is a very precious and life-saving gift. It is needed for lots of different reasons and for all types of patients. We need to transfuse people from the smallest premature baby to the 90-year-old who has fallen over and broken their hip. I'd like to thank all the donors on behalf of the patients we treat and I'd like to ask those of you who can to consider being a donor: it is a small thing to do but your gift could help to save the lives of up to three individuals.