Call for blood stock boost as new donor numbers continue to fall

Appeal for more new blood donors

Appeal for more new blood donors - Credit: Getty Images/Hemera

A ‘stark’ decline in the number of new blood donors has provoked an appeal for people in Suffolk and Essex to help boost supplies.

Busier lifestyles, global travel and the rise in popularity of tattoos have been suggested as reasons for the shortfall, which last year saw just two people in every 500 become first time donors in Essex, with only slightly more stepping up in Suffolk.

The number of new donors for Essex totalled 4,154 – a decline of 680 on the previous year and down by more than 1,300 from 2011. Suffolk’s new donors numbered 2,278 – slightly more than Essex by estimated population between the ages of 17 and 70.

The trend is not unique to this area, with NHS Blood and Transplant revealing that 40% fewer new volunteers came forward to give blood last year across England and North Wales compared to a decade ago. It said 204,000 more people are needed nationally this year to keep stocks at a safe level for the future.

The appeal marks the start of National Blood Week, culminating in World Blood Donor Day on Sunday.

Celebrities like Jamie Oliver, Jorgie Porter and Claudia Winkleman are backing the ‘Missing Type’ campaign by removing from their names the letters that make up the blood groups – A, O and B.

The message is that if donations stay insufficiently low, and these blood types go missing in years to come, there would not be enough blood available for patients.

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NHS Blood and Transplant’s Jon Latham said: “We simply can’t ignore the fact that there has been a stark reduction in the number of new donors coming forward – a trend seen across the world. While we can meet the needs of patients now, it’s important we strengthen the donor base for the future.

“We know that people’s lives have got busier over the last decade. People are working longer hours, commuting further, spending more time online and have less time of their own, despite more options of how to use it. Good causes are also competing increasingly for people’s attention and time.

“Travel to more exotic places, tattoos and investigations such as endoscopy are becoming more common and these lead to short term deferrals from donation. These are just some of the reasons why we’ve seen a decline in new people starting to donate.”

In Essex, 30,556 people gave blood at least once last year, saving or improving up to three lives each time. In Suffolk the total was 16,497.

Figures show a number of misconceptions still exist about donating, with almost half (48%) of the people responding to an NHS Blood and Transplant survey thinking the NHS asks friends and family to donate when a patient needs blood, and 13% thinking synthetic blood is created to meet the national demand. When asked reasons for not giving blood 22% blamed a fear of needles, 27% knew it was a good thing to do but had not got round to it, and 21% said they believed their health problems made them ineligible to donate. In contrast, 86% of respondents who had given blood felt the processes was as easy, or easier than they expected.

Find out if you are eligible on 0300 123 2323 or at visitblood.co.uk.