Audits of practice and incident reporting, most notably to national haemovigilance schemes, indicate that poor hospital transfusion practice is frequent and occasionally results in catastrophic consequences for patients. Improvements in practice are needed and depend on a combined approach including a better understanding of the causes of errors; a reduction in the complexity of routine procedures taking advantage of new technology systems, which enforce agreed guidelines and policies; the setting and regular monitoring of performance standards for key aspects of the hospital transfusion process, improved organisation of transfusion in hospitals and staff training; and further research on the safe and effective use of blood and alternatives to donor blood. There needs to be a greater recognition that 'transfusion safety' applies to the hospital transfusion process as well as the contents of blood bags and that resources need to be provided for the improvement of transfusion safety and management in hospitals commensurate to their importance.
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