There are around 8,000 blood transfusions carried out every day in England, which highlights how important it is for as many people as possible to donate blood. Currently only four per cent of people in the UK give blood.
To raise awareness of this fact, and to acknowledge those that already give blood, Thursday is World Blood Donor Day.
Read on for answers to many common questions surrounding blood donation.
n How do I become a blood donor?
You can register to give blood by filling in the form available at blood.co.uk or by ringing 0300 123 23 23.
n Where can I donate blood?
There are 24 dedicated blood centres across England where you can go to donate, or you can attend mobile sessions which are held across the country throughout the year. More details can be found on blood.co.uk. The website has a postcode finder which you can use to find a local service.
n Do I need to book an appointment?
You can either book an appointment, or turn up and wait to be seen. It is recommended that you book an appointment when possible, so you don’t need to wait.
n Who can donate blood?
Although you will be given a definitive answer when you visit a blood centre, you can normally give blood if you meet the following criteria:
In generally good health
Aged between 17 and 65
Weigh at least 7st 12lb (50kg)
Some people unfortunately cannot give blood due to certain conditions. You should never give blood if you’ve:
Ever had syphilis, HTLV, HIV or hepatitis C
Ever injected yourself with drugs – even if it was only once
Ever worked as a prostitute
If you have had a blood transfusion in the past yourself
If you think there is any reason why you might not be able to give blood, you should always talk to staff at a blood centre or call the 24 hour donor helpline on 0300 123 23 23.
n What is the blood giving process?
When you arrive to give blood, you will be asked to complete a donor health check questionnaire and potentially speak confidentially to a nurse. Then a drop of blood will be taken from your fingertip, to check haemoglobin levels and to check that giving blood won’t make you anaemic.
All being well, you will be able to donate blood – the amount given is around 470mls. When you have finished, you will be allowed to rest and have a drink and usually some biscuits. The process should take around an hour.
The amount of blood you give in one session equates to roughly 13 per cent of your total blood volume. The body can easily replace this but it can take several weeks for all of the red cells to be replaced. This is why it is necessary to wait at least 12 weeks (for males) or 16 weeks (for females) before donating blood again.
n Are there any other ways in which I can help?
Joining the organ donor register is another way in which you can help save lives.
More than 10,000 people in the UK currently need a transplant. Registering is quick and easy, visit organdonation.nhs.uk.
Platelets are needed for patients who are undergoing chemotherapy for cancer or leukaemia and organ or bone marrow transplants as well as those suffering from severe blood disorders or life threatening bleeding due to trauma or surgery. Donating platelets only takes two hours. Find out more about becoming a donor at blood.co.uk/platelets.
n Where can I go for more information?
Further information about donating blood can be found at the Give Blood website at blood.co.uk, with details of World Blood Donor Day available at who.int.