Friday 5th June 2015: In advance of National Blood Week (8-14 June 2015), NHS Blood and Transplant is calling for more people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Communities to start donating blood.
The call coincides with the organisation revealing that 40% fewer new blood donors came forward across England and North Wales to give blood last year compared to a decade ago. 120,000 fewer people attended a donor session to start donating blood in 2014/15 compared to 2004/5. Regular donations are crucial to saving and improving the lives of patients with cancer, blood disorders and those suffering medical trauma or undergoing surgery.
People from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities make up less than 5% of those who have donated blood within the last 12 months, despite representing around 14% of the population. More new donors from these communities are needed to reflect the changing population. In addition, conditions such as Sickle Cell Disease and Thalassemia are more prevalent within the Black and South Asian communities respectively.
Patients with these conditions often require regular blood transfusions and directly benefit from receiving blood from donors with a similar ethnic background. Some blood types, such as B positive are more common in the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Communities, while some rare types are only found within these communities.
NHS Blood and Transplant needs 6,500 more donations from Black, Asian and mixed race donors this year compared to last year. Black African, Black Caribbean, Indian, Bangladeshi and Pakistani people are particularly wanted.
To draw attention to the need for more new blood donors, NHS Blood and Transplant is working with partners including retailers and brands, media and celebrities to promote blood donation. They have been removing the letters A, O and B (the letters that make up the blood groups) from their names, raising awareness of the need for all types of new blood donors.
This ‘Missing Type’ campaign highlights that if not enough new people come forward to donate blood and these ‘types’ were to go missing in years to come, there wouldn’t be enough blood available when patients need it.
A number of misconceptions still exist about donating blood; almost half (45%) of the 101 Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people living in England responding to an NHS Blood and Transplant survey said they think that the NHS asks friends and family to donate when a patient needs blood and 20% think that synthetic blood is created to meet the national demand. Around 6 out of 10 people (58%) knew that unpaid volunteers are the way that blood stocks are maintained.
In 2015, 204,000 new volunteers need to attend a session to donate to ensure that the nation’s blood stocks continue to remain at a safe level in the future. However, when asked for the reasons why they don’t give blood, respondents gave a range of responses. The top three given were a fear of needles (21%), knowing it’s a good thing to do but not getting around to it (21%) and health problems so they don’t believe they are eligible to donate (16%), which may not be the case.
In contrast, 92% of respondents who had given blood felt that it was as expected or easier than they expected it to be.
Jon Latham, Assistant Director for Donor Services and Marketing at NHS Blood and Transplant, says:
“We simply can’t ignore the fact that there has been such a reduction in the number of new donors coming forward in this country (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. If we don’t attract new people across England and North Wales to donate it will put more pressure on the ability to provide the right type of blood the NHS needs for patients in 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.
“As the country is becoming more ethnically diverse, it’s important that our donors reflect these diverse backgrounds. Giving blood is an amazing thing to do and I really hope that greater numbers of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people are inspired by the ‘Missing Types’ campaign and come forward to donate. Please go to www.blood.co.uk, find out if you’re eligible to donate, register as a donor and book an appointment today. Giving blood is simple and easy to do and will only take about an hour of your time. Your donation could literally be a matter of life and death for somebody else from your community.”