Royal Shakespeare Company actors back campaign for new blood donors

10 October 2016

"Rouse up thy youthful blood, be valiant and live." Richard II, Act 1 Scene 3

BLOODY scenes aplenty feature in Shakespeare’s works.

But three Royal Shakespeare Company actors have stepped from the stage and into the donation chair to give blood for real.

Paapa Essiedu, Nia Gwynne and James Corrigan were helping to save lives and raise awareness of the need for more new young and black donors.

Nia’s baby son received lifesaving blood transfusions after he was born last year.

Nia, who plays Goneril in King Lear said: “Arthur was born three months premature and needed several blood transfusions during his long stay in hospital. Quite simply, people giving blood saved his life, more than once.”

In England every minute, thanks to blood donors, three units of blood are issued to hospitals to treat patients.

For patients receiving treatment for cancer, blood disorders, after accidents or during surgery, or new mums who lose blood in childbirth, blood is an absolutely essential part of healthcare.

But NHS Blood and Transplant –the service which collects, tests and processes blood for hospitals across England – says that while hospitals have the blood needed to treat patients there is a need for more new donors.

In particular there is a need for more young blood donors and more black and South Asian donors.

Mike Stredder, NHS Blood and Transplant Director of Blood Donation said: “We are really grateful to Paapa, Nia and James and to the RSC for helping raise awareness of blood donation. Blood donation is an amazing gift and every donation can save or transform up to three lives.

“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.”

NHS Blood and Transplant also particularly needs new A negative and O negative donors, and people willing to become dedicated platelet donors.

In England the number of people becoming donors and giving blood for the first time dropped 24.4% in 2015 compared to 2005.

Only 1 per cent of people who donated blood in the last year were from black communities. Donors from these communities are more likely to have rare blood types which can help treat conditions such as Sickle Cell Disease, which may require regular blood transfusions. For people with these conditions, blood from donors of the same ethnic background can provide the best chance of a match and therefore the best clinical outcome.

October is also Black History Month, which is being supported by both NHS Blood and Transplant and RSC.

Paapa, who recently played Hamlet and is now Edmund in King Lear, said: “Giving blood is a crucially important way for all of us to support our NHS – and so easy to do!”

James, who plays Palamon in The Two Noble Kinsmen said:  ”A friend of mine works for the NHS and I asked them why we should give blood. They said one donation can help change or save up to three  lives. That’s reason enough for me.”

  •  To sign up as a new donor, visit: or call 0300 123 23 23.


  •  For additional information on blood donation contact the NHS Blood and Transplant press office on 01923 367600 or via For out of hours enquiries please call 0117 969 2444
  • For additional information on Royal Shakespeare Company contact the RSC press office on 01789 412622 or /

Notes to editors

  • NHS Blood and Transplant is responsible for ensuring a safe and efficient supply of blood and associated services to the NHS in England. We are also the organ donation organisation for the UK and are responsible for matching and allocating donated organs.
  • We are an essential part of the NHS and take pride in saving and improving lives by making the most of every voluntary donation, from blood and organs to tissues and stem cells.
  • Our work would not be possible without our donors - ordinary people doing extraordinary things by saving and improving the lives of others.
  • To find out more visit:
  • Blood donors can search for sessions, book appointments, change/cancel their appointments and change their contact details in real time at
  • There are apps available for Android, Windows and Apple Smartphone and tablet devices which enable donors to search for sessions based on their location and book and manage appointments.
  • Our donor line - 0300 123 23 -is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week with all calls charged at the standard local rate, even from mobile phones
  • NHS Blood and Transplant needs to collect 1.6 million units of blood each year to meet the needs of patients across England. It’s important that we collect the right amount of each blood group at the right time to meet patient needs.
  • There are four main blood groups – O, A, B and AB. Group O is the most common and therefore the most in demand. A regular supply of blood is vital – red cells last 35 days and platelets only 7days
  • The overall demand for blood is falling by 3-4% per year. This is due to improvements in clinical practice and is a trend that is being seen around the world. The drop in demand for blood is also thanks to our work with hospitals to ensure blood is used appropriately for patients.
  • We need just under 200,000 new blood donors each year to replace those who no longer donate for reasons such as ill health, pregnancy or foreign travel and to ensure we have the right mix of blood groups to match patient needs in the future
  • Some blood groups, such as O negative (the universal blood group); A negative and B negative are particularly vulnerable to shortfalls. So we want people with those blood groups to donate as regularly as they can. We also need more black African, black Caribbean, mixed race and South Asian people to become blood donors to reflect the ethnic diversity of patients
  • 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.