NHS Blood and Transplant has revealed that 40 per cent fewer new volunteers came forward across England and north Wales to give blood last year compared to a decade ago.
The organisation is calling for more people to help fill the gaps by starting to donate in Northumberland.
To mark the start of National Blood Week today, which culminates with World Blood Donor Day on Sunday, NHS Blood and Transplant has explained that 204,000 new volunteers need to come forward this year across England and north Wales to keep the nation’s blood stocks at a safe level for the future.
Regular donations are crucial to saving and improving the lives of patients with cancer, blood disorders and those suffering medical trauma or undergoing surgery. 816 new volunteers came forward to donate blood for the first time in Northumberland last year, fewer than four per 1,000 of the estimated number of people between the ages of 17 and 70 living there.
In Northumberland, 29 per 1000 people are active donors, while 6,246 people living in Northumberland donated blood at least once last year, saving or improving up to three lives each time they did so.
NHS Blood and Transplant needs new donors to fill the gaps left by existing donors who are not able to give blood at this time and to ensure that we have the right mix of blood groups to match patients’ needs.
A number of misconceptions still exist about donating blood – almost half (48 per cent) of the people responding to an NHS Blood and Transplant survey said they think that the NHS asks friends and family to donate when a patient needs blood and 13 per cent think that synthetic blood is created to meet the national demand. However, eight out of 10 people knew that unpaid volunteers are the way that blood stocks are maintained.
When a survey asked for the reasons why people don’t give blood, respondents gave a range of reasons. The top three given were a fear of needles (22 per cent), knowing it’s a good thing to do but not getting around to it (27 per cent) and health problems so they don’t believe they are eligible to donate (21 per cent), which may not be the case. In contrast, 86 per cent of respondents who had given blood felt that it was as expected, or easier than they expected it to be.
Jon Latham, assistant director for donor services and marketing at NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “We simply can’t ignore the fact that there has been a stark reduction in the number of new donors coming forward – a trend seen across the world. While we can meet the needs of patients now, it’s important we strengthen the donor base for the future. If we don’t attract new people across England and north Wales to donate it will put more pressure on the ability to provide the right type of blood the NHS needs for patients in the future.
“We know that people’s lives have got busier over the last decade. People are working longer hours, commuting further, spending more time online and have less time of their own, despite more options of how to use it. Good causes are also competing increasingly for people’s attention and time. Travel to more exotic places, tattoos and investigations such as endoscopy are becoming more common and these lead to short-term deferrals from donation. These are just some of the reasons why we’ve seen a decline in new people starting to donate.
“Giving blood is an amazing thing to do. If you live in Northumberland and haven’t donated before, please help us reverse the decline in new donors. We run a number of sessions in the area. Please go to www.blood.co.uk, find out if you’re eligible to donate, register as a donor and book an appointment today. Giving blood is simple and easy to do and will only take about an hour of your time. It could literally be a matter of life and death for somebody else.”
If you are 17 or over, visit www.blood.co.uk or call 0300 123 23 23 today to find out if you are eligible to donate, register as a blood donor and to book your appointment.