Welcome to the winter issue of The Donor magazine and an opportunity to celebrate the passing of another year of continuity in serving the blood transfusion needs of patients and also to mark the introduction of some changes - including the launch of The Donor e-magazine.
As winter approaches our blood stocks reduce as people suffer from colds and flu which means they cannot donate. Weather conditions, pre-Christmas preparations and dark nights also take their toll on donor availability. So if you are able to donate in the coming weeks, please try and do so because the need for blood never stops.
I would like to thank you for your outstanding efforts over the last 12 months, whether it was your first donation or you have been giving blood for many years - your loyalty and generosity are an incredible commitment and mean so much to those who received transfusions over the last year.
I wish you good health and happiness over the festive season and another year of successful working together to save lives in 2012.
Up to 200 extra lives could be saved each year, thanks to new measures to make stem cells more available to patients. The changes are being made possible by £4m of new Government funding. This will pay for more cord blood collections at hospitals and closer collaboration between the British Bone Marrow Registry (BBMR) and the blood cancer charity, Anthony Nolan.
NHSBT runs the BBMR and the NHS Cord Blood Bank (which stores cord blood stem cells) and provides specialist support to facilitate haematopoietic (blood) stem cell transplants for patients. These stem cells can save the lives of patients whose own bone marrow is not working due to disease or following treatments for leukaemia or other cancers.
The Government announced the new funding following recommendations made last year by the UK Stem Cell Strategic Forum, led by NHSBT. As well as the increase in cord blood collections in hospitals, NHSBT and Anthony Nolan have consolidated the information held in their adult bone marrow donor registries.
Between them, the registers provide access to over 700,000 adult donors in the UK, and aligning them speeds up the process of donor searches.
Anthony Nolan are now the single point of contact for UK transplant centres searching for a matched adult donor or cord blood unit. This initiative means that blood donors registered with the BBMR may in future be asked for permission to be contacted by Anthony Nolan if they are ever identified as a match for a patient needing a stem cell transplant.
Faith and civic leaders attended a special meeting in London to give thanks to blood donors from black and minority ethnic (BME) communities.
The multi-faith event was held at the Shree Swaminarayan Temple in Golders Green, London, where high-profile guests included His Divine Holiness Acharya Swamishree Purushottampriyadasji Maharaj as well as representatives from the Christian, Jewish, Sikh, Buddhist, Muslim and Dharmic faiths.
Bengu Shail, a leukaemia patient who has received numerous blood transfusions as part of her treatment, spoke at the event about the importance of blood donation in the BME community.
His Divine Holiness Acharya was also presented with a letter from donors (pictured above) recognising his efforts in promoting blood donation across the world.
Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust has been recognised for its work on promoting and increasing organ donation.
The Queen's Medical Centre (QMC) was visited by HRH the Duchess of Gloucester in November, where she unveiled a bronze sculpture dedicated to all the deceased organ and tissue donors who gave the gift of life in their death. A 'Circle of Life' memorial will be erected near the medical school at the QMC.
Last year (2010/11) was a record year for the organ donation team at the Trust with more organ donors than any other trust in the Midlands. More than 55 patients benefited from transplants Royal recognition for organ donation success from 17 deceased donors, representing a 90 per cent increase on 2009/10.
A memorial service was held at Winchester Cathedral in October to remember all those who have died and donated their organs for transplant.
More than 150 people from across the country gathered to give thanks for the lives of those who had helped others in death.
Men who have had sex with men (MSM) will no longer be excluded from giving blood, providing they meet other donor selection criteria. The ban has been lifted following an evidence-based review by the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs (SaBTO).
Men whose last sexual contact with another man was more than 12 months ago will now be able to donate, if they meet the other donor selection criteria. Men who have had anal or oral sex with another man in the past 12 months, with or without a condom, are still asked not to donate blood.
The change brings MSM in line with other groups who are deferred from giving blood for 12 months due to infection risks associated with sexual behaviours.
Dr Lorna Williamson, NHSBT's medical and research director, says, "Our priority as a blood service is to provide a safe and sufficient supply of blood for patients. We welcome this review and its conclusions."
The latest annual report from SHOT (Serious Hazards of Transfusion) has shown that blood transfusions are now safer than ever. Last year was the first year in which there were no confirmed cases of transfusion-transmitted infection. There was also a 29 per cent reduction in the number of reported incidents of the wrong blood or blood products being given to patients.