Australian Red Cross Lifeblood delivers one of the world’s safest supplies of life-giving blood, plasma, transplantation and biological products for world-leading health outcomes. Lifeblood is now transforming lives in many different ways — from tissue typing services to organ matching for transplants to donated breast milk.
Lifeblood operates a national network of 96 blood donor centres. Four major blood processing facilities transform the gifts of generous donors into safe, high quality biological products for Australian patients.
Thousands of babies are born early every year in Australia. Of these, around 15 percent will be extremely premature or underweight. For these vulnerable babies, breast milk is the preferred feeding choice to help reduce the risk of health challenges related to their early births, including life-threatening necrotising enterocolitis.
In 2018 Lifeblood saw an opportunity to expand beyond blood to benefit Australia’s tiniest patients. It founded a human milk bank to supply pasteurised donated breast milk to premature babies in neonatal intensive care units, special-care nurseries and hospitals, initially in South Australia and New South Wales, and then one year later in Queensland. In 2020 Lifeblood received a $2 million grant from the Australian Government to build a new facility at its Brisbane Processing Centre, in collaboration with the Queensland Milk Bank, and to upgrade its facility at Sydney Processing Centre, with the goal of ensuring 100% of Australia’s vulnerable infants have access to a reliable source of donated breast milk.
Service is one of Lifeblood’s core tenets and the organisation is focussed on transforming itself as a customer-centric, agile and modern business, at the leading edge of the healthcare sector both in Australia and internationally.
New mothers who voluntarily donate breast milk are regarded as valued customers by Lifeblood, which aims to provide an excellent experience each and every time they give.
Lifeblood’s focus on customer experience resulted in a unique way to support donating mothers, with the first in-home collection service in Australia. A specialised nursing team attends donors’ homes to assess their suitability to donate, take blood samples for screening and pick up donated breast milk for processing and pasteurisation, making the experience as seamless and as easy as possible for families with young babies. This is a major point of difference to other milk bank organisations.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020, Lifeblood radically redesigned its customer service model, previously based on home visits and face-to-face communication. It examined the touchpoints with donors and healthcare professionals and devised ways to minimise these while still staying connected. Face-to-face time with new donors was significantly reduced and new measures introduced to its milk bank operation to ensure its customers, people and recipients remained safe.
World-first research was also conducted during the initial stages of the global pandemic to confirm that Lifeblood’s risk mitigation strategies would ensure the donated breast milk remained safe for medically fragile babies.
In 2020 Lifeblood welcomed over 300 new donors to the program and collected 3,500 litres of donated breast milk, while providing a safe environment for its people and customers during a global pandemic. Some of the most vulnerable premature babies born in 2020 had access to the best possible nutrition, thanks to breast milk donated by Australian mothers and collected, processed and provided by Lifeblood Milk.