How blood is used

Blood or the components of blood are used to treat patients with medical conditions, such as anaemia, cancer and blood disorders, as well as those having surgery.

Blood components

Blood is made up of a number of components, including red blood cells, platelets and plasma. Each of these can be used to treat many different conditions.

Blood is usually separated into its individual components or parts, so a patient can be given the particular component they need.

This makes the most of every blood donation, as the components in one unit of blood (or one donation) can be used to treat different patients.

Blood transfusions

Donated blood or components are given to a patient in a blood transfusion. Blood transfusions are given via a line into a vein.

  • Around two thirds of the blood donated in England is used to treat medical conditions including anaemia, cancer and blood disorders
  • Nearly a third is used in surgery and emergencies including childbirth

Usage varies between hospitals depending on their particular specialties. 

We work closely with hospitals to make sure valuable blood donations are used appropriately. 

The demand for blood from hospitals has fallen due to increased efficiency, but new donors are always needed to make sure there is enough blood to treat those who need it. 

Blood transfusions for people who are dying

Blood can be vital for people with medical conditions or who are having surgery. But blood transfusions can also improve the quality of life for people whose illness has no cure.

Karen Clarke, a community nurse who gives transfusions to terminally ill people in their own homes, says: 'These vital transfusions give patients a better quality of life and the energy and ability to enjoy this precious, final time with their families'.

Blood not used for transfusion

Sometimes, blood may not be suitable for transfusion. This blood can still benefit patients in areas like the development of treatments and therapies.

Blood can be very useful for research and training, and to help develop tests.

We do not sell blood, or its components, for non-clinical use.

Find out more about when we make blood available for non-clinical use

More information about the different blood types that provide a lifeline to all kinds of patients