RCHT blood transfusion team win £10,000 from the NHS England Innovation Challenge Prizes

The Award is for their Llama Safe transfusion sample labelling system which has been developed at Royal Cornwall Hospital Trust (RCHT) and is designed to help clinicians and healthcare professionals to always make sure blood samples are correctly labelled.

“The Innovation Challenge Award is fantastic news for the team,” says Debbie Thomas, Lead Transfusion Practitioner (pictured centre with colleagues Stephen Bassey and Tamzyn Zee, left). “Not only are we delighted that Llama Safe has been recognised as an important development in patient safety for blood transfusion, the prize funding will help us to take forward the development of Llama and its broader application.”

In 2014, 680 Wrong Blood in Tubes (WBIT’s) incidents were reported nationally to SHOT (Serious Hazards of Transfusion), a number that has been rising annually since 2010, when 386 were reported. A WBIT is where a blood sample from one patient is labelled with someone else’s name and details.

“A WBIT incident doesn’t necessarily mean that a patient actually received the wrong blood, but they were at high risk of doing so and suffering serious harm,” explains Stephen Bassey, Consultant Transfusion Scientist. “To reduce this risk national guidelines tell lab staff to reject any blood sample for transfusion if there is any imperfection in the labelling and whilst this helps keep patients safe from potential errors it can cause delays, loss of patient confidence and wasted money.  Looking the number of specimens rejected at RCHT, as a team we felt this was something we needed to find a solution for.”

After looking at the market for a secure sample labelling system, the team found nothing that matched its requirements and so developed Llama Safe for themselves. Working with an independent partner specialising in computer coding and application development, the Blood Transfusion team worked closely with clinicians and front line staff. Nicki Jannaway, Transfusion Practitioner, stated: “We wanted to ensure that the application not only fitted with clinical guidelines but was also quick and easy to use.”

Llama Safe works across a mobile device and portable printer, allowing patients’ transfusion specimens to be labelled at the bedside, linked directly to the wider information via the QR codes that all patients already have on their hospital wristbands.

After successfully implementing Llama Safe in A&E and demonstrating a significant reduction in rejected samples, Llama Safe is in use across all inpatient areas at RCH. Tamzyn Zee, Blood Tracking Coordinator, added: “The benefits of Llama Safe to the patient are reduced number of samples required, fewer delays to treatment and assurance that if blood is required, it will be the right blood to the right patient.”

The Llama Safe Transfusion team at RCH hope to take this novel solution to other NHS trusts in the near future.

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