Global call for blood donors of the future
Every second three people across the world receive a life changing blood transfusion. 1
And every minute, thanks to blood donors, three units of blood are issued to hospitals in England to treat patients.2
But NHS Blood and Transplant is uniting with blood donor organisations across 21 countries to highlight an almost 30% international drop in people becoming blood donors compared to a decade ago. 3
The number of people becoming donors and giving blood for the first time in England decreased by 24.4% in 2015 compared to 2005.
NHS Blood and Transplant – which first held Missing Type in England and North Wales in 2015 – this year brings together 25 blood services from 21 countries in a global campaign to call for new blood donors to ensure blood donation for future generations.
Throughout the campaign As, Bs and Os, the letters of the main blood groups, will disappear in everyday and iconic locations around the globe. And patients from around the world have thanked blood donors in a moving video to highlight that in a world without As, Bs and Os, they would not be here.
Across the Missing Type countries, which cover one billion of the world’s population, there are some differences in the numbers of donors and blood groups most in demand but all share the need for more new donors.
In England, the focus is on a particular need for more young blood donors and more black and Asian donors.
Mike Stredder, Director of Blood Donation at NHS Blood and Transplant, the service that collects, tests and processes blood for hospitals across England, said: “Blood donation is an amazing gift. Transfusions save lives and transform health for millions across the world. Every donation can help or save up to three patients and last year in England alone 900,000 people gave blood - helping up to 2.7 million patients. Whether it is patients receiving treatment for cancer, blood disorders, after accidents or during surgery, or new mums who lost blood in childbirth, blood is an absolutely essential part of modern healthcare.
“Thanks to the generosity of our current donors, hospitals have the blood needed to treat patients and there is not a crisis in blood stocks. Despite overall blood use in hospitals declining, we need more young donors to safeguard blood donation for future generations. And it’s vital the blood donor community reflects the diversity of the population because blood types vary across communities and patients need well-matched blood.
“Don’t worry if you’ve never given blood before and don’t know what blood group you are – you find out shortly after your first donation. What’s important is that you register as a donor and book your first appointment to donate. We particularly need new A negative and O negative donors, and people willing to become dedicated platelet donors.”
A number of high profile brands and organisations are backing the campaign, with Microsoft, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, Boots and Manchester City amongst organisations featuring in a new TV advert that will also be seen across social media. Other major supporters include Lloyds Bank, and Royal Mail, who is issuing a special postmark to support the campaign. The postmark will be applied to millions of items of stamped mail from Tuesday 16 August to Friday 19 August.
NHS Blood and Transplant’s donor recruitment work, including last year’s Missing Type campaign, the introduction of a digital real time booking system, and the use of social media to recruit new donors, have led to people signing up and starting to donate. But new donors are needed every year to replace those who can no longer donate as well as ensure the right mix of blood groups to meet patient needs now and in the future.
Barriers to people becoming blood donors identified by blood services taking part in the Missing Type campaign include:
You can start donating blood across the UK from age 17. But last year in England only around 1 in 10 (11%) of blood donors were aged between 17 and 24, while more than half (54%) were aged 45 and over.4 Younger donors are important to ensure blood donation for future generations.
Around 3.5% of the population in England is black African or black Caribbean, but last year less than 1 in 100 (0.64%) donors were from black communities.
People from black communities are more likely to have conditions such as Sickle Cell Disease, which causes their red blood cells to behave differently. Some people with Sickle Cell Disease require regular transfusions to stay healthy. Some blood groups such as B positive, and rarer sub types such as Ro, are also more common in black communities.
Daniel Nwosu, 19, is one of around 15,000 people in the UK who has Sickle Cell Disease. At just six years old Daniel had a stroke as result of a sickle cell crisis. A year later, another stroke led a brain haemorrhage which left him in a coma for three days.
Daniel said: “My doctors have told me I will need blood transfusions for the rest of my life. Sickle Cell Disease affects me and my family in so many ways. It is always there and many people don’t understand the pain that it can cause. I’m very grateful to all who give blood, but it is vital more people understand the need for black African and Caribbean donors, so patients can get the closely matched blood they need.”
Around two thirds of donated blood in England is used to treat medical conditions such as blood disorders and cancer.
Three year-old George Ferriman has an aggressive blood cancer called Acute Myeloid Leukaemia. He has just finished his fourth round of chemotherapy treatment – and needed 20 red blood cell and platelet transfusions.
Dad Richard said: “I’d never given blood before, not for any reason other that I just never realised the need. I didn’t know that such a simple act could save lives. If it were not for people giving blood and platelets George would not have survived. We have had the wonderful news that George is now in remission. I’ve become a donor and as a family we want to do all we can to raise awareness. We want George to be able to look back on this when he is older and think - look at all the life savers I encouraged to go and donate!”
1 85,000,000 Red Cell Transfusions a year (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22751760)
2 In 2015 1,887,136 million issues of red cells were made to hospitals by UK blood services
3 Countries joining the Missing Type campaign who provided data to the Missing Type survey 2016:
UK: England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland
Europe: Belgium, Republic of Ireland, Sweden, Switzerland, The Netherlands
Asia: Japan, Republic of Korea, Singapore
Australia/Oceania: Australia, New Zealand
South America: Brazil
North America: Canada, USA, (United Blood Services locations does not incl. American Red Cross, Blood Centres of the Pacific, Inland Northwest or any other member centre)
Africa: South Africa
In a survey for Missing Type in April 2016, participating blood services reported the number of people becoming donors and giving blood for the first time was 1,830,003 in 2005 and 1,324,980 in 2015 – a drop of 27.6% in 2015 compared to 2005. Not all services were able to provide full responses.
Countries joining the Missing Type campaign but which did not provide date for the global insights survey: Hong Kong, Lithuania, Nepal
4 Number of active blood donors (those who have given blood at least once in a year)
In 2015 the 25 blood services joining in the Missing Type campaign provided 14.7 million units of blood to treat patients thanks to the generosity of 8.16 million blood donors – 1.3 million were first time donors.
This includes 1.89 million units of blood provided to hospitals across the UK thanks to around 1.1 million donors giving blood through one of the UK’s blood services (NHS Blood and Transplant, the Welsh Blood Service, Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service and Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service) – around 184,000 gave blood for the first time.
It includes 1.6 million units of blood provided to hospitals in the England thanks to around 900,000 donors – around 154,000 gave blood for the first time.
Notes to editors