Blood services routinely separate whole blood into components that are then stored under different conditions. The storage conditions used for whole blood prior to separation must therefore be a compromise between the needs of the red cells (which benefit from refrigeration) and plasma and platelets (which are better preserved at ambient temperature). For many years, the approach has been to manufacture plasma and platelet components on the day of blood collection, and to refrigerate any unprocessed blood for manufacture into red cell components on the following day. However, this can make it challenging to maintain adequate stocks of all components. The European practice of ‘ambient hold’ of whole blood for up to 24 hours prior to processing allows greater flexibility in blood component manufacture, and the data reviewed suggest there is relatively little impact on the quality of red cell or plasma components, and an improvement in the quality of platelet components.