National Blood Service maintains quality with NWA SPC and analysis software

Adept Scientific (Letchworth, Herts) and Northwest Analytical’s (Portland, Oregon) Quality Monitor and Quality Analyst products are helping The National Blood Service to achieve prescribed quality levels and protect its reputation.

With 15 regional centres and a worldwide reputation, the National Blood Service (NBS) keeps quality and consistency at the top of its agenda. A surprisingly large number of different products are supplied by the service and users expect the properties of each to be the same, time after time and regardless of which centre has produced it. Two Northwest Analytical programs, NWA Quality Analyst and NWA Quality Monitor, help to protect the integrity of the service and its output.

As part of the NHS, The National Blood Service is responsible for collecting, testing, processing, storing and issuing 2.1 million donations of blood from around the country. The products processed by the service include blood, blood components, products made from blood and tissues and these are made available throughout England and North Wales. Its work includes research into the use and safety of blood products, as well as advising and providing clinical support to hospitals. Education and training also form part of the NBS remit.

The provision of safe blood products for NHS patients demands an array of testing and quality control procedures. At its blood centres, NBS measures more than 30 different parameters, including red cell count, ratio of white cells to plasma and the incidence of various constituents. Sampling ranges from 1% to 100%, depending on batch quantity and the parameter being tested. For the most part, data is input manually though bar coding is used on product scanners. Standards and parameters used by the service are laid down in the ‘Red Book’ HMSO publication and governed by EU regulations.

The Bristol Centre has its own copy of NWA Quality Monitor which is used to record the data. “Almost all of our quality data is entered manually and, with live data, there is potential for accidental alteration of information,” says Peter Cheesley of NBS. “However, with the latest version of Quality Monitor, the security means that data is protected. Another advantage of the software is that out-of-specification situations are flagged up on the data screen, preventing poor data being recorded and alerting us to any trends that may affect the quality of our products.”

With its flexible data collection capability and real-time acquisition, Quality Monitor is ideal for any processing or production facility. The cost-effective software integrates easily with other data systems and includes a full-screen ‘visual designer’ and wizard-based configuration for simple setup. Its sister program, Quality Analyst, provides a powerful and flexible SPC charting and analysis solution, analysing data and presenting it simply with easy-to-understand graphics.

Using a series of data entry screens in Quality Monitor, designed by NBS staff, data is presented consistently and can be used both locally and accessed from a centralised database. SPC and various analyses are then run using Quality Analyst.

NWA Quality Analyst brings another dimension to NBS’s capability, allowing production of capability reports and comparative analyses. The software also keeps tabs on laboratory and processing equipment; for instance, highlighting the drifting of analyser readings from trends analysis.

The early pick-up of trends is vital to the work of NBS. One example of this, explains Peter Cheesley, is in the centrifuging of blood, “When a centrifuge starts to slow down, it will affect the cell count or proportion of plasma in a given blood product, Quality Analyst shows up the trend before the occurrence of out-of-specification and means that blood is not wasted or scrapped.”

Peter Cheesley is more than satisfied with Quality Monitor and Analyst, “The NWA software has proved simple to use but sufficiently powerful to cover almost all of our quality needs, saving time and protecting the quality of our output.” As with any software, the package extends beyond what comes in the box; “We have always found the support for these products to be friendly and timely, the people at Adept are really good to deal with.”

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