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03 December 2019

Christmas 2019: Festive call for new blood donors

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The Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service (SNBTS) requires 442 people to give blood every day during December.

This year, SNBTS are highlighting how blood donations are vital for a wide range of treatments. Those highlighted include Road Traffic Accidents, supporting the Major Haemorrhage Protocol in Scottish hospitals, and supporting people with rarer illnesses such as sickle cell anaemia.

Beth Lwanda, who has regular blood transfusions to treat Sickle Cell Anaemia, and her daughter Evelyn.
Beth Lwanda, who has regular blood transfusions to treat Sickle Cell Anaemia, and her daughter Evelyn.

Lynne Willdigg, Associate Director of Donor and Transport Services, SNBTS, says:

'We are joined today in donor centres across Scotland by people who have needed and received blood and blood products for a wide variety of reasons: a road traffic accident; after giving birth; and as a result of the inherited condition called sickle cell disease. Blood products are required every day for a wide range of life saving treatments and these three patients highlight how not only diverse that range can be but that this will continue over the festive period in our hospitals as it does the remainder of the year. Today we are asking new and existing donors alike to come forward now to donate and help us ensure all hospitals are well stocked throughout December allowing both planned and unplanned blood transfusions for patients to be there when needed.

Donor Centres across Scotland will be open on Christmas Eve, Boxing Day, and Hogmanay. We are here today to remind people we still need donors on these key dates. Lynne Willdigg

'Donor Centres across Scotland will be open on Christmas Eve, Boxing Day, and Hogmanay. We are here today to remind people we still need donors on these key dates.

'There are eight different blood groups, and we aim to maintain a five to seven day supply at all times of each one. Our focus as a Service is to ensure that we consistently meet clinical demand over the festive period, and to this end we work closely with hospitals to forecast that demand. This also means that we can now provide donors with a greater level of detail about how their donation is needed. For example, many emergency situations require O Negative, as this is the only blood group that can safely be given to everyone in an emergency situation. We must welcome 63 O Negative donors every day in Scotland during December to ensure supplies of this critical group remain at safe levels. O Positive is Scotland's most common blood group, so we must welcome 172 people with this blood group every day.

'The ask of blood donors is changing as we work closer and closer with hospitals to meet demand. We aim to increase the overall number of people donating whilst reducing the number of donations existing donors give each year. Having a wider panel of donors to call upon, donating just once or twice per year makes us more resilient to meet patient's needs in the future.

'This Christmas, we would especially love to welcome new donors. Between 2008 - 2018 we have seen a substantial drop in the number of 17 year old donors coming forward. In 2008, 3.8% of all blood donors were aged 17. In 2018, this reduced to 2.5%, which is a drop of 60%. In the same period, our average donor age has increased from 38 to 42. This means Scotland’s donor base is aging, and we need to encourage more 17-24 year olds to become blood donors. Currently we do have a highly successful school talk programme, where we speak to S5 and S6 pupils at over 350 secondary schools in Scotland. During the last academic year, this programme welcomed 2,346 17 year old blood donors, however this is not enough going forward.

'To support this campaign, in the coming year we are rolling out an online appointment booking system which is already operational in our fixed donor centres, and proving very popular with donors, plus developing further initiatives to digitalise elements of the blood donation process, such as an online donor health check.'

Glasgow

Glasgow Research Assistant, Beth, says:

'I was diagnosed with sickle cell disease at three months old. I have learned to live with my condition, and have a rewarding job helping others and a beautiful daughter. However, health issues such as a cold, can have a major impact upon me, and I am dependent upon blood transfusions. Most months, I need a procedure which contains 8-10 transfusions to stabilise me, which means I’ve had thousands of donations in my lifetime so far. I'd like to thank everyone who donates blood, as without you many of my treatments simply would not be possible.'

Kenneth, Evelyn and Beth
Kenneth, Evelyn and Beth

Sickle cell disease is an inherited condition of the red blood cells which causes the cells to change into a sickle shape when the cells are stressed. This can happen when a person with sickle cell disease is unwell with fever, infection, dehydration or sometimes for no apparent reason. These crises can be life threatening. Although there are some medications that can help patients with sickle cell disease, often the only treatment that will help patients feel better (and indeed save their lives) is a transfusion of donated blood.

Also joining Beth is retired Glasgow teacher Kenneth McGowan, who gave 340 donations of whole blood platelets and plasma and helped many students donate as part of SNBTS school talk programme. Kenneth says:

'On 5th November last year I was diagnosed with what was later discovered to be Burkett Lymphoma, which required 600 hours of chemotherapy and I also had 3 doses of sepsis because my neutrophils were zero. To overcome this I received 6 units of blood products to keep me on planet earth. In August this year I was given the all clear. This was all due to the skill and patience of the haematology department in Hairmyres and Monklands, not to mention the amazing donors who freely gave blood.'

Edinburgh

Edinburgh Mum Karen, says:

'Immediately after giving birth to my daughter Maisie in 2013, I suffered a post partum haemorrhage. I lost a huge amount of blood very quickly, 3.6 litres to be precise. This meant I was in need of blood transfusions - in fact, I now understand almost all the blood in my body was replaced with donated blood. I am eternally grateful to those who take the time to donate blood – without them my story could have ended very differently.'

The Major Haemorrhage Protocol is used by hospitals to facilitate the rapid supply of blood components and rapid transport of blood samples in an emergency situation. The protocol is used when a patient has lost over two litres of blood. We are talking about this today to highlight that blood is not only used for planned surgery, but is essential in emergency situations, which will continue over the Festive Period. In 2018, The Major Haemorrhage Protocol was used 164 times in Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. This means the need for blood will not take a rest over the Festive Period, and SNBTS need supplies of all eight blood groups to support any emergency treatments for patients.

Aberdeen

Mark Hunter from Aberdeen needed a blood transfusion after sustaining life threatening injuries after a car accident.

On the 1st of September 2018, Mark (then 20 years old) was in a serious car accident. He suffered multiple fractures to his face, a broken arm, fractured sternum, broke two vertebrae in his spine and broke his hip.

Mark and his Mum
Mark and his Mum

Mark's Mum Karen, said:

'Mark had lost quite a lot of blood due to the accident, he needed multiple operations and he looked grey and his heart was racing. We really noticed a difference in how he was doing after he'd received the transfusion. I can't thank whoever donated blood enough. They saved my boy and I will be forever thankful.' 

Mark's Dad Alex is a regular blood donor and Mark's little sister Chloe can't wait until she's old enough to start her donating journey. Mark is now back to work and says: 'My energy was really low before getting the transfusion. I'd like to thank anyone who has donated blood as it really helped me a lot.'

Anyone over the age of 17 in general good health and weighing more than 7st 12lbs, could potentially become a blood donor and help save lives.

  • To register as a blood donor or to find out where your nearest donation session is, call 0345 90 90 999. Alternatively, you can sign up online.

Current blood stock levels across Scotland

We aim to retain 6 days of stocks at any time in order to meet the requirements of patients in Scotland.

Learn more about blood types