NHS Blood and Transplant is urging people in Bedfordshire to commit to saving lives by registering as new blood donors during the Missing Type campaign.
Blood donation saves lives and NHS Blood and Transplant is uniting with 25 blood donor organisations across 21 countries to highlight an almost 30% international drop in people becoming blood donors last year compared to a decade ago.
The number of people becoming donors and giving blood for the first time in England decreased by 24.4% in 2015 compared to 2005.
NHS Blood and Transplant – which first held Missing Type in England and North Wales in 2015 – is now leading the campaign for new blood donors to ensure blood donation for future generations.
Last year, 11,392 people in Bedfordshire gave blood at least once.
New blood donors are crucial for ensuring we have the right mix of blood groups to meet patient need in the years to come - there is a particular need for more young blood donors and more black and Asian donors.
Throughout the campaign As, Bs and Os - the letters of the main blood groups - are disappearing in everyday and iconic locations around the globe including America, Australia, Japan and Ireland.
Patients from around the world have thanked blood donors in a moving video and famous names in participating nations are backing the campaign.
In England, major supporters include Microsoft, Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital, Boots, Manchester City, Lloyds Bank and Royal Mail.
Key supporters in Bedfordshire include Thameslink Luton.
Half of all donors in England are over 45 so it’s important to recruit younger people to donate blood to help meet patient needs now and in the future.
Last year, 10.4 per cent of our donors in Bedfordshire were aged 17-24, and 55.3 per cent were aged 45 or over.
Mike Stredder, director of blood donation at NHS Blood and Transplant, the service that collects, tests and processes blood for hospitals across England, said: “Blood donation is an amazing gift and transfusions save lives in Bedfordshire every day. Whether it is patients receiving treatment for cancer, blood disorders, after accidents or during surgery, or new mums who lost blood in childbirth, blood is an absolutely essential part of modern healthcare.
“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.
“Don’t worry if you’ve never given blood before and don’t know what blood group you are – you find out shortly after your first donation. What’s important is that you register as a donor and book your first appointment to donate.”
Nursing student Shaz Ahmed (pictured), 38, from Luton, started donating blood after being inspired by one of her teachers.
She said: “I never really properly thought of giving blood until then. That was the tipping point - I thought why should I not donate?”
Shaz, a mum of two, had previously worked as a care assistant and had seen many people, particularly elderly people, benefit from blood transfusions.
Since she started donating, a family member has also started needing regular blood transfusions for the disorder thalassaemia.
“I am so thankful to the people who donate to help him, blood donors are keeping him alive,” Shaz continued.
She added: “I’d urge people to support Missing Type and register as new donors at blood.co.uk.”
In Bedfordshire there is also a particular need for more black and south Asian donors.
More black and south Asian blood donors are needed because people from a similar ethnic background are more likely to have more closely matched blood, which patients require for the best possible clinical outcome.
Around 3.5% of the population in England is black African or black Caribbean, but last year only 0.64% of donors were from black communities, and while around 5.6% of the population in England is south Asian, last year only 1.1% of donors were from south Asian communities.
In 2015, hospitals in England were provided with 1.6 million units of blood provided thanks to around 900,000 donors – around 154,000 gave blood for the first time.