Scotland launches festive recruitment drive for new post-pandemic donors
Scottish hospitals are currently supplied by the smallest pool of blood donors this century, the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service (SNBTS) has revealed. This festive season, SNBTS are asking people to register as a blood donor, or to return and donate if they have not given for a while.
During the Pandemic (from 2019 to 2020), active blood donors in Scotland fell from over 105,000 to fewer than 92,000. This is a real-time reduction of nearly 13% meaning 13,000 fewer people gave blood in a single year. Although the donor base has started to rebuild in 2021 and Scotland now has 96,000 active blood donors, SNBTS are asking new donors to come forward over the festive period, or those who have got out of the habit to return and donate.
We need to welcome 3,300 donors per week to ensure blood supplies remain at safe levels
Dr Sylvia Armstrong-Fisher, SNBTS
Dr Sylvia Armstrong-Fisher, SNBTS says, 'During the pandemic, NHS Scotland relied on commitment from existing donors who gave very regularly. We’d like to thank all of these people who supported us at such an important time. However, alongside the natural lifecycle of blood donors retiring every day, this led to the community of active donors shrinking to its lowest level since records began. We need to welcome 3,300 donors per week to ensure blood supplies remain at safe levels and, with fewer people donating regularly, we want to welcome 50 new or returning blood donors every single day over the festive and Winter period.
'During the pandemic we have made many positive changes to blood collection, to make giving blood as easy as possible for donors. We are now offering more weekend sessions in our donor centres, and have opened our flagship donor centre in Livingston, which is now welcoming over 800 donors a month. To book your appointment to donate, you can use our online portal.
'Maintaining a safe and regular supply of blood to hospitals is our top priority. Thank you to everyone who has supported patients in Scotland over the past two years. We look forward to welcoming you soon. Please join this amazing club today and book an appointment to support Scotland’s patients over the Festive period and into the new year.'
Helping publicise the campaign are 29yr old Kate MacRae, husband Mike (35), and little daughters Abigail (4 months) and Hollie (2) from Ardersier, near Inverness. Kate, an accounts assistant for Arnold Clark, suffered a massive postpartum haemorrhage after giving birth to Abigail earlier this year. Her life was saved by 12 transfusions given by 12 different people across Scotland. Mike, who has Colitis, also received a lifesaving transfusion when he was just 18. Without blood donors, there would be no MacRae family.
Kate says, 'We just want to say thank you to everyone who gives blood, in particular the people who gave blood for Mike, and the twelve people who gave blood and blood products for me. I lost nearly all the blood in my body, there’s no doubt that without those people my children wouldn’t have a mother, and my husband wouldn’t have a wife.
'It’s the best thing you could give this Christmas'
Mike says, 'It’s scary to think that if people didn’t take half an hour, 45 minutes out their day to give blood, we could be having a very different conversation.'
In addition to the MacRaes, Dr Musa Watila (47) is joining the call to arms. A specialty doctor in Neurology at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, Dr Watila lives with sickle cell disease and needs transfusions every eight weeks. He loves being a doctor and helping those in need, because as Dr Watila says, 'I understand very well what it means to be on the other side of the table as a patient.'
Dundonian chip shop owner Martine Curran (40) is supporting the drive, showing her gratitude to the blood donors who saved her life four years ago when her organs neared failure after giving birth to daughter Mara.
Martine says, 'I would just like to say to everybody thank you, thank you so much for taking the time out your day to come and give blood. You can’t imagine how it feels – I’m just so grateful, every day I’m grateful to you all for giving blood and giving me the chance to be here, and be spending time with the ones I love.
'You think you’re just going in to have a baby, you’ll go in, go out, it’s all happy experience. I didn’t get to take my baby home, but I eventually got home to her, so thank you. If it wasn’t for you going to give blood I wouldn’t have had that chance.'
Giffnock mum Louise Pennington’s seven year old daughter Freya was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia last November. She spent a month in hospital, needing ten transfusions over this time, before finally being able to go home just before Christmas.
Louise remembers one transfusion in particular. 'One day Freya really wasn’t well from the side effects of treatment. She was lethargic, very sick, she had lots of mouth ulcers and sores. The doctor could tell, just by looking at her, she would need a blood transfusion that day.
'Watching her it hit me, the enormity, that someone had given their blood and Freya would feel a bit better afterwards. I had an overwhelming sense of gratitude that someone had donated this for Freya to feel better. It wasn’t a tablet created in a lab, but a real person who had made her better. I just wanted to say thank you to anyone who had given up their time to donate.'
There are eight different blood groups. SNBTS aim to retain 5-7 days supply of all eight blood groups at all times. At this time, people with the blood groups A and O are particularly asked to come forward. You can see Scotland’s daily blood stock levels on scotblood.co.uk