News: This Christmas give blood: the gift only you can give

Thursday, 13 Nov 2014

This Christmas more than 200,000 blood donors are needed to give a very special gift and help hundreds of thousands of patients.

Last year 1 in 5 blood donor appointments were missed over the festive period, putting NHS Blood and Transplant’s critical operation under unnecessary pressure.

NHS Blood and Transplant is calling for more people across England and North Wales to make time this Christmas to give a gift only they can give and make a blood - or platelet - donation.

Jon Latham, NHS Blood and Transplant Assistant Director said: 'Blood stock levels can drop dramatically over the busy festive period as Christmas shopping, celebrations and extended public holidays mean giving blood slips off the nation’s to-do lists.

At this time of year many people want to give something more than material gifts. A blood donation truly is the gift only you can give and with one single donation you can save or improve up to three lives.

'Don’t worry if you’ve never given blood before -now is a great time to sign up and start giving.'

Around 210,000 whole blood donations will be needed over the coming six weeks to supply hospitals across England and North Wales treating patients with cancer and anaemias, after accidents or childbirth complications, and during surgery.

And over the festive period 12,500 platelet donations are needed to help treat patients with cancer, serious blood disorders and those who have undergone transplants.

Every blood donation is vital, but over winter months NHS Blood and Transplant particularly needs to ensure supplies of rarer blood groups O Rh Negative, A Rh Negative, B Rh Negative and AB Rh Negative as these are most vulnerable to shortfall.

It’s also important blood donations represent the country’s diverse population. Some rare blood groups and some blood disorders are more common among ethnic communities. For certain conditions, for example sickle cell anaemia, it is beneficial for patients to receive blood from the same ethnic background.

While 14% of people living in England and North Wales are black, Asian or minority ethnic, only 4% of active blood donors are from these communities.

This year NHS Blood and Transplant faces extra pressure as Christmas Day and Boxing Day fall ahead of a weekend, raising concerns fewer donors than usual will get around to making life saving donations during the busy festive period.

To book an appointment to donate and give the gift only you can give, visit www.blood.co.uk or call 0300 123 2323 to find your nearest session. It is also easy to book through mobile apps for Windows, Android and Apple devices. To download the app, search 'NHSGiveBlood' in the app store.

Ends

  • For additional information or to arrange to interview case studies or spokespeople please contact the NHS Blood and Transplant press office on 01923 367600 or via pressoffice@nhsbt.nhs.uk
  • For out of hours enquiries please call: 0117 969 2444

Notes to editors

  • NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) is a joint England and Wales Special Health Authority. Its remit includes the provision of a reliable, efficient supply of blood and associated services to the NHS in England and North Wales. It is also the organ donor organisation for the UK and is responsible for matching and allocating donated organs
  • Donors can search for sessions, change their contact details, book appointments and change/cancel their appointments in real time on www.blood.co.uk
  • There are apps available for Android, Windows and Apple Smartphone and tablet devices which enable donors to search for sessions based on your location, book and manage appointments.
  • NHSBT’s donor line - 0300 123 23 23 - is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week with all calls charged at the standard local rate, even from mobile phones
  • NHSBT collects 1.8 million units of blood each year from over 23,000 blood donation sessions in more than 3,000 venues
  • Only four per cent of the eligible population are active blood donors • A unit of blood is measured as 470mls (or just under a pint)
  • There are four main blood groups – O, A, B and AB. A regular supply of all blood groups is vital – red cells last 35 days and platelets only 7 days.
  • Maintaining a regular supply of group O Rh Negative is particularly important to respond to patient need.
  • Female whole blood donors can give blood every 16 weeks, while male blood donors must wait 12 weeks between donations. Platelets can be donated every 2 weeks.