June 14 was World Blood Donor Day, a day to encourage people to give blood and help save lives. It takes less than an hour to give blood but unless we have enough volunteers then levels of this precious liquid can become dangerously low – and can affect availability for all the different medical procedures it is needed for.
In England alone the NHS needs about 6,000 blood donations every day and about 200,000 new donors every year. The NHS is reliant upon volunteers to come forward and give blood to ensure a reliable supply of blood for those who depend on it. New volunteers are needed to maintain supplies so if you have given blood but not donated recently or you are thinking about it – here is how you can give blood in the UK. Remember your donation can help save lives.
To be a blood donor you need to be aged between 17 and 66, be fit and healthy and weigh more than seven stone 12 lbs. Those over 70 who have donated within the last two years may continue to do so. Before donating, people are asked some confidential questions about their general health and will undergo a simple blood test to ensure their blood is suitable to donate. This usually involves a thumb prick test to get a small sample of blood to test for iron levels (anaemia).
Once you have been selected to donate you will be able to recline on a hospital bed and just relax while the blood is collected. Obviously a needle is involved but it’s not much different to giving blood samples for blood tests. During most blood donations, approximately 470ml (just under one pint) of blood is taken. This around 10% of an adults blood supply – but don’t worry your body will quickly replace the lost blood and make new blood cells.
Blood donations aren’t just used to give blood transfusions following accidents they are used in many different types of patients. Once collected blood is usually separated into its individual components or parts: blood cells, platelets and plasma. Each of these can be used to treat many different conditions, so a patient can be given the particular component they need. This makes the most of every blood donation, as the components in one unit of blood (or one donation) can be used to treat several different patients.
Blood is needed in a whole range of medical situations: Some of the patients who typically require blood transfusions are: Cancer patients, Leukaemia patients, Burn patients, those receiving organ or bone marrow transplants, premature babies, victims of traumatic injuries and accidents, patients undergoing certain surgeries.
New blood donors in England and parts of Wales can quickly register to donate online or over the phone through NHS Blood and Transplant. In Scotland people can register online or over the phone through the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service. To find your nearest blood donation centre you can call NHS Blood and Transplant for free to make an appointment or enter your postcode to search for your nearest centre.
Giving blood can mean you are helping to save people’s lives. The theme of this year’s World Blood Donation Day is – Blood connects us all. It focuses on thanking blood donors and highlights the dimension of “sharing” and “connection” between blood donors and patients, and is using the slogan “Share life, give blood”, to draw attention to the roles that voluntary donation systems play in encouraging people to care for one another and promote community cohesion.
Director of the Department of Service Delivery and Safety at WHO, Dr Ed Kelley, said, “Voluntary blood donors come from all walks of life but they have one thing in common: they put others before themselves – people they don’t even know… Each time they donate blood, they commit an act of selfless heroism.”