To review the status of regional and provincial blood regulatory authorities and evaluate progress, and to develop an action plan for strengthening blood regulatory systems in the country, World Health Organization in collaboration with Safe Blood Transfusion Programme (SBTP), Ministry of National Health Services & Regulations organised a National Consultative Workshop on Blood Regulation at a local hotel in Karachi. The Workshop was followed by Training Session facilitated by renowned international experts; Prof. Cees Th. Smit Sibinga, Mr. Paul Kohorst and Dr. Yetmgeta E. Abdella, Head of Blood Safety Unit, WHO-EMRO, and Prof. H.A Zaheer, National Coordinator, SBTP. Representatives from all provincial and regional blood regulatory authorities, health care commissions, blood programme managers, senior haematologists and transfusion specialists attended the Workshop.
The internationally recommended blood system consists of blood regulatory system, blood supply system and blood transfusion system. The blood regulatory system deals with legislations, regulations, policies while the blood supply system is responsible for product liability i.e. blood. The blood transfusion system has to ensure protection of the rights of the consumers, blood transfusion recipients. The role of regulation in ensuring the quality and safety of blood supply and transfusion systems has been recognized by WHO for over 40 years. Accordingly, the SBTP Pakistan has taken concrete and positive steps in establishing and strengthening the blood regulation to improve the blood safety standards throughout the country.
During the Karachi Consultation, the stakeholders identified the bottlenecks in the proper operationalization and functioning of the blood transfusion authorities, inadequate regulation and control of consumables and medical devices and weak and fragmented service delivery system in addition to generic governance issues. Until recently regulation of blood transfusion system was not accorded due priority. However, since 2010 and particularly in the last 2 years SBTP has led the national effort to achieve remarkable progress in the BT regulation sector. Every province and region in the country now has blood safety legislation and notified authorities. New blood regulatory laws have been approved for the provinces of KP, Punjab and Sindh. All the BTAs have also streamlined their functions. Tangible progress has been made particularly in Balochistan, Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir with the technical assistance from the Islamabad Blood Transfusion Authority (IBTA). Earlier, IBTA had already developed a model transfusion system for the Islamabad Capital Territory which is well suited to the needs of a developing country like Pakistan. The WHO recognized the national efforts of the SBTP and the strengthening of blood regulatory system in Pakistan in these last few years. This was also acknowledged by WHO as one of the key priority interventions and highlighted in the WHO regional strategic framework for blood safety and availability (2016–2025).
The WHO Meeting provided an excellent opportunity for the national stakeholders to update their knowledge about developments and achievements in the various regional and provincial blood regulatory system. The participants also deliberated on the future plans and provided recommendations to the WHO for further technical support including an impact assessment of the BT regulatory activities conducted by the SBTP.
The 2-day Training Workshop in Islamabad provided updated information on the essential components of blood donor management system including infrastructure requirement for blood donor management, establishing and maintaining blood donor base, donor recruitment and retention strategies, safe blood collection techniques, blood donor counselling, referral and care, human resources management, information technology, and ethical considerations in blood donor management. The participants also deliberated on recommendations and future plans to improve blood donor management system and practices in the country especially in the newly constructed German funded Regional Blood Centres.
The WHO training material was adapted and made suitable for Pakistan needs especially to address the country specific issues. The current workshop will now be followed up by organization of similar capacity building activities in different parts of the country through the national experts trained in this workshop. It is anticipated that the strengthening of the donor management system through such initiatives will go a long way in promoting regular voluntary donations in Pakistan.