Blood vending machine 'a first' for NI
Vending machines in hospitals are normally used for a quick snack or cup of coffee - but one which dispenses blood is an innovation.
Staff at Belfast's Mater Hospital have helped devise and produce a piece of technology called a HemoSafe.
It has been described as a new way of delivering blood, which will improve the safe delivery of blood products.
It is proving so successful there are plans to roll it out in other hospitals across the Belfast Health Trust.
Blood vending machines are already in operation in hospitals in the United States and London, but this is the first time one has been used in Northern Ireland.
The HemoSafe uses blood track software, which means that when a doctor or nurse takes a sample of blood from a patient, it is tracked and sent to the lab.
If that patient then needs extra units, the information is already available and can be simply verified.
As the system is automated, it is considered to be more accurate and also cuts down the paperwork for hospital staff.
Nurse Carmel Wright, the clinical leader behind the project, said she was delighted with the way the machine worked with the lab's management system.
"It's a winner for the patient and our service and it is safe and efficient," she said.
The new system aims to cut down on red tape and any potential for human error, especially during a blood transfusion when the patient requires pints of a particular type of blood.
According to deputy sister Pamela Johnson, it also reduces the time it takes to get blood for life-saving operations.
"It's better for the staff working in the theatre department because we have a lot less paperwork to fill in.
"It's automated, so every piece of information that is associated with that blood unit is documented on a database rather than use doing it manually," she said.
Nonetheless, delivering blood is still a team effort.
"It starts from the people at the bottom, right up," said Mater Hospital porter Michael Curley.
"You are part of the unit of blood being brought up to the patient, which is helping the patient get better.
"So you feel as if you are achieving something when you deliver the blood."