On December 6, 1948 the storage of blood was started in the Blood Bank in a small building attached to the Government Bacteriological Laboratory (now the National Public Health Laboratory) on North Street. Prior to that, blood transfusions were given directly from donor to patient.
Then, bottles were used for the collection of blood and these were returned to hospitals for sterilization and reuse. By the beginning of 1957 disposable equipment were introduced and the service expanded.
In October 1952, with the opening of the University Teaching Hospital it was expected that the demand for blood would increase and a Committee was formed under the auspices of the Jamaica Red Cross, to try and establish a roster of voluntary donors. By the end of the first year of operation, there were over one thousand donors. The numbers increased by 50% during the first five years. In 1955 the Red Cross Committee resigned and in May 1956, the service came under new management but was still a part of the laboratory.
The service expanded further when a mobile unit was obtained in 1956 and put into use collecting blood at various places across the island. Voluntary committees were formed in each parish to assist in the promotion and educational work necessary before the mobile unit was set up in an area. Later these committees collaborated to raise funds to build blood collection centres at the main hospitals. All blood collected from these centres and from mobile sessions is processed at the main collection centre at Slipe Pen Road and re-distributed to the various hospitals.
In 1958 the Transfusion Service was relocated to its present location at 21 Slipe Pen Road, in order to meet growing demands. It also began to operate as a separate department from the National Public Health Laboratory.
Voluntary organizations have played an important role in the Transfusion Service from the original Red Cross Committee, under the Chairmanship of Mrs. Isabel Magnus. The most active voluntary group at present is the Blood Bank Association who raise funds for the NBTS, and aid in the collection of blood.