National Blood Programme

Singapore Infopedia


An emergency blood collection service was started in Singapore in 1939 as war loomed in the Pacific. By 1941, there were thousands of blood donors registered.1 The Singapore Blood Transfusion Service (SBTS), however, was formed only in June 1946 after the end of World War II.

Singapore Blood Transfusion Service
Established in June 1946, SBTS was initially housed at the General Hospital on Outram Road. It started with two female volunteers, and appointed its first fulltime medical officer in 1948.2 SBTS operated on the basis of voluntary blood donation, with beverages such as coffee, milk and beer provided at its donation sessions.3 In its first year, a modest 287 units of blood were collected.4

Early years
Despite persuasion by community leaders such as Lee Kong Chian and Tay Lian Teck, the general population believed that blood donation would damage their health and were thus reluctant to give blood. SBTS was therefore highly dependent on donations from the British military.5

In 1949, a mobile blood collection unit was formed to enable donors to give blood near their homes or at their workplaces. The following year, SBTS began issuing certificates, badges and medals to recognise regular donors.6

SBTS launched many campaigns to promote blood donation in the 1960s. Free beer and cigarettes were given to donors, and lucky draws were conducted. Appeals for blood donation were also made through the newspapers, radio, cinemas and television.7

In 1965, SBTS introduced a scheme of medical benefits as an incentive for regular blood donation.8 From 1966, annual award presentations were held to recognise regular donors. The award was extended to organisations in 1993.9 In 1978, SBTS started tele-recruitment to encourage donors to continue giving blood and remind them of their next appointment.10

On 18 March 1984, the Singapore Red Cross Blood Centre at Penang Lane was opened to assist SBTS in blood collection.11

National Blood Programme
SBTS shifted to the new National Blood Centre on Outram Road on 22 April 1988. The building was equipped with advanced computerised blood management system and state-of-the-art blood testing laboratories.12 On 1 April 2001, the Singapore Red Cross was appointed as the national blood donor recruiter by the Health Sciences Authority.13 The National Blood Centre, now known as Bloodbank@HSA, is one of the four blood banks in Singapore. The other three blood banks are Bloodbank@Dhoby Ghaut, Bloodbank@Woodlands and Bloodbank@Westgate Tower. Community blood drives are also organised regularly around Singapore neighbourhoods.14

The National Blood Programme aims to ensure a healthy and constant supply of blood by enlarging the donor pool through recruitment and retainment of blood donors. The programme also seeks to promote and educate the public on the importance of blood donation in ensuring a steady and adequate supply of blood to patients. In addition, the Singapore Red Cross works with organisations and corporations to organise community blood donation drives to make it easy and convenient for the public to donate blood.15

Emergency readiness
On 12 October 1978, an explosion on the Greek oil tanker Spyros at Jurong Shipyard killed 76 and injured 69. Thousands of donors came forward to donate blood, and SBTS collected a record 2,988 units of blood within the first three days. More than half were first-time donors. Following the collapse of Hotel New World on 15 March 1986, SBTS operated round the clock and collected 3,054 units of blood.16

Since 1986, SBTS and the Singapore Civil Defence Force have conducted numerous national and sectoral emergency blood collection exercises, so as to ensure their emergency readiness.17


Joshua Chia Yeong Jia & Zoe Yeo

1. Y. W. Ong, “The Development of Blood Services in Singapore,” Annals of the Academy of Medicine Singapore 11, no. 3 (July 1982): 412. (Call no. RSING 610.5 AMSAAM)
2. Singapore Blood Transfusion Service, Singapore Blood Transfusion Service: 50[th] Anniversary: 1946–1996 (Singapore: Blood Transfusion Service, 1977), 8–9. (Call no. RSING 362.1784 SIN)
3. Singapore Blood Transfusion Service, Singapore Blood Transfusion Service, 8–9.
4. S. B. Kwa, “Development of the Blood Transfusion and Clinical Haematology Services in Singapore,” Annals of the Academy of Medicine Singapore 18, no. 4 (March 1989): 490. (Call no. RSING 610.5 AMSAAM)
5. Kwa, “Development of the Blood Transfusion,” 491; Singapore Blood Transfusion Service, Singapore Blood Transfusion Service, 9.
6. Singapore Blood Transfusion Service, Singapore Blood Transfusion Service, 9.
7. Kwa, “Development of the Blood Transfusion,” 492.
8. Ong, “Development of Blood Services in Singapore,” 413.
9. Singapore Blood Transfusion Service, Singapore Blood Transfusion Service, 24–25.
10. Singapore Blood Transfusion Service, Singapore Blood Transfusion Service, 12.
11. Singapore Blood Transfusion Service, Singapore Blood Transfusion Service, 17.
12. Singapore Blood Transfusion Service, Singapore Blood Transfusion Service, 26.
13. “National Blood Programme,” Health Sciences Authority, 2020.
14. “Where to Donate Blood?” Singapore Red Cross Society, 2019.
15. Health Sciences Authority, “National Blood Programme.”
16. Singapore Blood Transfusion Service, Singapore Blood Transfusion Service, 14, 18; Committee of Inquiry into the Explosion and Fire on Board S.T. Spyros, Singapore,  “Preface,” in The Explosion and Fire on Board S.T. Spyros, 12th October 1978: The Inquiry Report (Singapore: Ministry of Labour, 1979). (Call no. RSING 623.83 SIN)
17. Singapore Blood Transfusion Service, Singapore Blood Transfusion Service, 18.

The information in this article is valid as of December 2020 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

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