Call for black blood donors of the future

Blood services around the world join Missing Type campaign to reverse decline in new donors
Survey reveals 30% drop in new donors across 21 countries last year compared to decade ago
NHS Blood and Transplant says younger and more diverse blood donor community needed in England – especially black donors
Campaign launches 16th August 2016

Every second three people across the world receive a life changing blood transfusion. 1

And every minute, thanks to blood donors, three units of blood are issued to hospitals in England to treat patients.2

NHS Blood and Transplant – which first held Missing Type in England and North Wales in 2015 – this year brings together 25 blood services from 21 countries in a global campaign to call for new blood donors to ensure blood donation for future generations.

In a survey, the blood services participating in the Missing Type campaign reported the number of people becoming donors and giving blood for the first time was 1,830,003 in 2005 and 1,324,980 in 2015 – a drop of 27.6% in 2015 compared to 2005. The number of people becoming donors and giving blood for the first time in England decreased by 24.4%.

In England, there is a particular need for more black donors to help make sure there is right mix of blood types available for desperately ill black patients. People from a similar ethnic background are more likely to have more closely matched blood, which patients require for the best possible clinical outcome. However there is currently a shortage of black blood donors in England. Last year, there were 5,729 active black blood donors in England, and 889,379 donors in total.

A number of high profile brands and organisations are backing the Missing Type campaign, with Microsoft, Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital, Boots and Manchester City amongst organisations featuring in a new TV advert that will also be seen across social media. Other major supporters include Lloyds Bank, and Royal Mail, which is issuing a special postmark to support the campaign. The postmark will be applied to millions of items of stamped mail from Tuesday 16 August to Friday 19 August.

Throughout the campaign As, Bs and Os, the letters of the main blood groups, will disappear in everyday and iconic locations nationally and internationally.

Barriers to people becoming blood donors identified by blood services taking part in the Missing Type campaign include:

Wider and more exotic travel
People having less time to give in an increasingly busy world
Lack of awareness of the process
Fear of needles

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. Transfusions save lives and transform health for millions across the world. Every donation can help or save up to three patients and last year in England alone 900,000 people gave blood – helping up to 2.7 million patients.

“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.

“It’s vital the blood donor community reflects the diversity of the population. Patients in the black community would have more chance of getting better matched blood and less chance of developing antibodies if there were more donations from black donors. One day it could be you, or someone you love, in need of donated 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.”

Cleveland Alexis, 39, from St. Paul’s Cray in Bromley, has a rare combination of blood groups that mean he is sometimes called in to donate for a specific patient in need.

Only 35 donors have his combination of blood types and he is on the UK’s rare donor panel. His blood is particularly useful for pregnant women and patients with sickle cell disease.

Cleveland, an Executive Housekeeper for Hilton hotels, originally from Trinidad, started donating after seeing a news report about the need for more minority group blood donors.

“I felt I could make a difference. The first donation was really quick, only six minutes.”

Cleveland is O positive. He also has the RO Rh blood group subtype, and is also negative for a series of other blood group antigens, including Duffy a, Duffy b, and Kell.

Cleveland, who usually donates at Penge, said: “I enjoy contributing something positive to someone’s health. I urge people to support the Missing Type campaign by registering as new blood donors at blood.co.uk.”

Paige Hendrickson, aged 23, from Bradford, has blood transfusions for sickle cell anaemia. She has been having painful crisis episodes for the last ten years, nearly dying twice.

The disease also means her immune system is weakened and Paige frequently spends time in hospital with pneumonia. The condition affects her lungs badly and she now has just 75% function in her lungs.

Paige said: “I have been having blood exchange transfusions every three months for the past two years. This gives me a new lease of life and without the exchange transfusions I would not be able to live my life the way I do.”

Every time a patient receives donated blood that does not fully match theirs, there is a risk they may produce antibodies to certain antigens. The better matched the blood the patient receives the lower the risk of antibody production and hence a lower risk of complications following transfusion.

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.

People from black communities are more likely to have conditions such as Sickle Cell Disease, which causes their red blood cells to behave differently. Some people with Sickle Cell Disease require regular transfusions to stay healthy.

Some blood groups such as B positive, and rarer sub types such as Ro, are also more common in black communities.

Young black donors are especially needed to ensure blood donation for future generations. You can start donating blood across the UK from age 17. But last year in England only around 1 in 10 (11%) of blood donors were aged between 17 and 24, while more than half (54%) were aged 45 and over.

Around two thirds of donated blood in England is used to treat medical conditions such as blood disorders and cancer.

Donating blood should take no more than an hour from appointment time and each donation can save or improve up to three lives

To sign up as a new donor, click here or call 0300 123 23 23.

Support the campaign on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram #MissingType.

[1] 85,000,000 Red Cell Transfusions a year

2 In 2015 1,887,136 million issues of red cells were made to hospitals by UK blood services

3 Countries joining the Missing Type campaign who provided data to the Missing Type survey 2016:
UK: England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland
Europe: Belgium, Republic of Ireland, Sweden, Switzerland, The Netherlands
Asia: Japan, Republic of Korea, Singapore
Australia/Oceania: Australia, New Zealand
South America: Brazil
North America: Canada, USA, (United Blood Services locations does not incl. American Red Cross, Blood Centres of the Pacific, Inland Northwest or any other member centre)
Africa: South Africa

In a survey for Missing Type in April 2016, participating blood services reported the number of people becoming donors and giving blood for the first time was 1,830,003 in 2005 and 1,324,980 in 2015 – a drop of 27.6% in 2015 compared to 2005. Not all services were able to provide full responses.

Countries joining the Missing Type campaign but which did not provide date for the global insights survey: Hong Kong, Lithuania, Nepal

4 Number of active blood donors (those who have given blood at least once in a year)

In 2015 the 25 blood services joining in the Missing Type campaign provided 14.7 million units of blood to treat patients thanks to the generosity of 8.16 million blood donors – 1.3 million were first time donors.

This includes 1.89 million units of blood provided to hospitals across the UK thanks to around 1.1 million donors giving blood through one of the UK’s blood services (NHS Blood and Transplant, the Welsh Blood Service, Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service and Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service) – around 184,000 gave blood for the first time.

It includes 1.6 million units of blood provided to hospitals in the England thanks to around 900,000 donors – around 154,000 gave blood for the first time.

5. Population stats from 2011 census figures for Black African, Black Caribbean, or Any Other Black / Asian Pakistani, Asian Indian, or Asian Bangladeshi. Blood donor stats are the number of people giving blood at least once during 2015, with an ethnic background of Black African, Black Caribbean, or Any Other Black / Asian Pakistani, Asian Indian, or Asian Bangladeshi.

Stephen Bailey

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