Around 118,000 more first time donors are needed to attend a blood donation session between now and the end of December to protect blood supplies. The figures have been released at the start of National Blood Week as NHS Blood and Transplant is calling for more people to get off the bench and start giving blood. The need for people to join the Greatest Team in the World is also intensified as current and new donors are expected to be distracted this summer as people s attention turns to the Football World Cup*.
Each year 200,000 new donors are required to attend a donation session to replace those who can no longer donate for health or other reasons. This year 82,000 new donors have already visited one of their local sessions to join the blood donation team but more are needed, especially those aged 17-24 years old who currently account for only 14% of donors in England and North Wales. Young donors are crucial to ensuring there is a robust donor base for the years to come and to protect the future supply of blood.
Jon Latham, Assistant Director for Donor Services and Marketing at NHS Blood and Transplant, said: 'Our blood donors make up The Greatest Team in the World and we're grateful to each and every one of them including new donors registering this year. We're issuing a call up for more to come forward because we know blood donation falls off the to-do list during hot weather and summer holidays, and big public events like the World Cup. We want potential donors to know they can do something amazing for their country just as the England team will hopefully do in Brazil! Make a date to donate and please keep your appointment to help us maintain and ensure stock levels for the coming months and for the future.'
To raise awareness of the need for new donors, ten regular donors all born when England won the World Cup in 1966 posed for a team photo with ten 17-year-old first time donors. One of the donors who took part was first time donor Miss Zuleika Knowles, 17, of Islington, who has B Rh negative blood - a blood group that is often in high demand because certain ethnic groups are more prone to particular diseases that require blood transfusions and a higher proportion of these ethnic groups are Group B. Zuleika said: 'My sister gives blood and encouraged me to do so. I also felt if I needed blood in an emergency, I should be prepared to donate - such a small sacrifice for such a great cause.'
The need for more people like Zuleika to donate is important for patients whose lives depend on blood transfusions, like Balbinder Kaur. She suffers from Thalassaemia and needs a transfusion every four weeks to keep her alive. 'It feels like receiving a gold medal. I have so much more energy and I appreciate everyone who donates blood to save my life.'
Former England footballer Lee Dixon showed his support by visiting the West End Donor Centre, in London, and meeting first time donors. He said; 'I wanted to support the campaign by visiting the West End Donor Centre to thank new young donors for taking the time out to donate. Blood donors don't always get the recognition they deserve but in putting the needs of others ahead of their own they show real team spirit.'
While all blood groups are important, some blood groups, such as O Rh negative - the universal blood group - and B Rh negative are more vulnerable than others. It's even more important that the number of regular donors with these blood groups increases. Many people don't know what blood group they are until they make their first donation.
Recent updates to the website mean it is now easier than ever to register and manage appointments. Newly launched apps for iPhone and Android will also allow users to register, book and change or cancel appointments while they are out and about.
As long as you are fit and healthy, weigh over 7 stone 12 lbs (50kg) and are aged between 17 and 66 (up to 70 if you have given blood before) you should be able to give blood. If you are over 70, you need to have given blood in the last two years to continue donating.
For more information on events and initiatives happening during National Blood Week (9-15 June 2014) to help encourage and attract younger people to donate or to register and book an appointment to donate, visit www.blood.co.uk or call 0300 123 23 23.
For more information or to speak to a blood donor, recipient or a spokesperson, please contact the NHS Blood and Transplant Press Office at firstname.lastname@example.org / 01923 367600.
* During a previous international football tournament, the number of blood donations collected on England football match days fell by up to 5%, and up to 12% on the day following an England match.
Notes to editors