Blood donations are an essential part of the daily health care system and can improve health and save lives, but due to the amount of transfusions made daily in England, nearly 400 new blood donors are needed each day to meet demand, and around 135,000 new donors a year to replace those who can no longer donate.1

In this blog post, we are looking at the various ways that blood donations are used, why it is so important, and the blood donation process.

How is blood used?

Blood is made up of different components, including red blood cells, platelets and plasma – each component can be used to treat different conditions. To ensure no donation is wasted, the blood is separated into its individual components meaning one unit of blood can be used to treat a number of different patients.

According to hospital usage in 2014, blood was used in the following ways2:

  • 67% was used to treat medical conditions, including anaemia and cancer
  • 27% was used in surgery
  • 6% was used to treat blood loss after childbirth

How can I help?

This part is simple; you can help by becoming a regular, voluntary blood donor!

Most people can give blood, and if you fit the criteria below there is no time to waste3:

  • You are fit and healthy
  • You weigh more than 50kg
  • You are aged between 17 and 66 (or 70 if you have given blood before)
  • Are over 70 and have given blood in the last 2 years

Unfortunately there are some things that can prevent you from being able to give blood, such as if you are suffering with a medical condition, taking medication, have tattoos or if you are pregnant.  To check if you are eligible to give blood, click here.

All types of blood are in demand, however the NHS is currently requesting that individuals with blood groups O negative and B negative book to donate as these blood groups are required urgently.

The donation process

The process of giving blood is straightforward, once you have checked if you are eligible to give blood, simply book your appointment either over the phone or online on the Give Blood website. You will then be given a few instructions to follow before your appointment.

At your appointment you will be welcomed by a member of the blood donation team who will give you information to read prior to giving blood. There will then be a health screening where your medical history is checked to make sure your blood is safe to be used by another patient. Your identification will be needed and a few questions will be asked about your donor health check form before a small sample of blood is taken to check your iron levels. At this point, if you are unable to donate you will be given the reasons why, but should you be eligible, you will be asked to wait until a donation chair is available for you.

Once you are ready, a nurse will start the donation process, which usually takes around 5-10 minutes for a pint of blood to be taken. During the process, you should not feel any pain or discomfort, but if you do you should alert a member of staff. Once the donation is complete, you will be given some advice on aftercare and are then encouraged to stay behind for at least 15 minutes for a drink and a small snack. After this, you are free to leave, safe in the knowledge that you may have just helped to save someone’s life!

You can donate more than once a year – it is recommended by the NHS you wait between 12 and 16 weeks between each donation depending on your situation4.  To find out more about the donation process and to read stories about how donations have helped to save lives, click here.

1 NHS Blood and Transplant
2 NHS Blood and Transplant
3 NHS Blood and Transplant
4 NHS Blood and Transplant

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