Ambition 1: Blood supply

The best blood supply

Sanquin aims to provide the best blood supply. Our blood products meet the highest requirements for efficacy, quality and safety. The 427,685 packed red blood cells Sanquin supplied to hospitals in 2015 will have saved thousands of lives. We can provide our blood products thanks to the selfless donations from 343,158 donors.

Haijo Sikkes has donated blood 530 times, I had to stop because I’m 70 years old. I regret that I can no longer donate. I loved doing it. The Leeuwarden Blood Bank was my regular destination. I miss the staff and the other donors; it was one big, happy family. I was given a tour of Sanquin in Amsterdam because I had donated more than 500 times. Seeing just what my blood and plasma are used for was very impressive.”

Donor Advisory Council (DAC)

Donors are the heart of the Netherlands’ blood supply. Sanquin values the thoughts, ideas and recommendations donors can provide on donor-related issues. Until 2015 this was coordinated through the National Donor Council and four regional donor councils. With Sanquin moving increasingly to a single, national structure, the National Donor Council recommended the formation of a single Donor Advisory Council with a national mandate. This Donor Advisory Council (DAC) came into being on 1 January 2015. The DAC consists of eight donors from various collection sites throughout the country. Additionally, the Netherlands Donor Association and the Young Donor Association each hold one seat.

The DAC held four plenary meetings in 2015. The DAC’s annual report may be viewed here:

Changes to the selection policy

Previously, men who had sex with men (MSM) were permanently excluded from donating blood in the Netherlands. The selection policy changed as of 1 December 2015, so that blood may be donated 12 months after the last MSM contact. In the meantime, international developments and study results are also being monitored closely to determine whether, and under what conditions, a shorter waiting period may be possible. This policy change was supported by donor compliance research conducted with Maastricht University. Alternatives for donor selection policy, existing legal frameworks and Dutch medical practice were also compared with other countries. This new policy brings the Netherlands into line with existing policies in Finland, Sweden and the United Kingdom. The policy was partly the result of extensive discourse with involved parties, such as the Netherlands Association of Haemophilia Patients, the COC Netherlands, the Medical Advisory Council and Sanquin.

World Blood Donor Day

On World Blood Donor Day (14 June every year), Sanquin thanks all its donors for their special gift, and raises awareness of the importance of giving blood in the Netherlands. We do this with unique activities. For example, eight blood donors walked through the centre of Rotterdam on World Blood Donor Day 2015 with their cardiovascular systems painted on their bodies. Donors can also take selfies at collection sites and share them on social media with the hashtag #ikgeefbloed (#idonateblood). Sanquin posts the selfies and photographs and videos of the body-painted donors on a special online wall of fame.

‘Save someone’s life’

67% of donors cite saving a life as their reason for donating. This important motivation was the foundation for the donor recruitment campaign Sanquin launched in 2015. Its central message was that ‘You don’t know him/her, but thanks to your help, he/she is alive today.’ The underlying idea is that living a normal life is not a given for many people. They need blood, and depend on people who give it selflessly.

Sanquin focuses on three specific groups in the recruitment campaign: men, young people and the ‘missing minorities’. Men, because they are less likely to have antibodies that can cause complications during transfusion. Women are more likely to have antibodies due to pregnancy. Men are also more likely to pass medical screening than women, because they are less susceptible to having Hb levels which are too low to allow donation. We want to recruit young people to keep a good balance of ages in our donor registry. And we need the ‘missing minorities’ – people with a non-western ethnic background – because of their specific blood groups, demand for which is rising in tandem with changing demographics in the Dutch population.

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