A Glimpse at United Kingdom’s Blood Donation System

"Blood Supply in United Kingdom"

Blood Donation in United Kingdom

Help eliminate the blood shortage, Join the International Blood Registry.

It is no secret that the world is facing blood shortages and every country is coping with the providing stock for the blood supply needs. Despite going through shortages, the  United Kingdom blood services is known globally not only because of providing clean and safe blood supply but also because it is running on a system of voluntary no-cash paid blood donation.

Let’s take a peek at how the United Kingdom  replenish their blood supply from the requirements for blood donors, their thoughts on incentive giving,  present state of their, and the blood banks that supply the countries under it.

Requirements for Blood Donors
Donating blood is a very noble thing to do. Here are the requirements for a donor to be able to give blood:

  • must be in good health
  • must be 17-65 years old
  • must weight at least 50 kg

Male donors can donate blood every 12 weeks or 3 months while female donors can give blood every 16 weeks or every 4 months.

Even if you pass the requirements mentioned above doesn’t mean you can give blood yet. Strict requirements put a lot on good physical health. Donating blood is deferred if there is the slightest evidence that suggests that the procedure could potentially harm you or potentially harm the recipient. This means that the slightest hint of you being sick several minutes before blood donation ruins your chances to donate blood. If you have these conditions listed below, then you might as well cancel the appointment and re-schedule. Below are the restrictions as provided by the National Blood Services:

  • If you have chesty cough, active cold sore, sore throat. You also can’t donate if you’ve had jaundice or hepatitis in the last 12 months.
  • If you’ve had a tattoo, or any cosmetic treatments that involves skin piercing in the last 4 months.
  • If in the last 4 months, you’ve had acupuncture, unless it was performed within the NHS or by a qualified Healthcare professional registered with a statutory body.
  • If you’re a male or female donor who have donated blood in the last 12 weeks.
  • If you are presently taking antibiotics or have had any infection in the last 14 days.
  • If you have been transfused of blood anywhere in the world since January 1, 1980.
  • If you are pregnant or have had a baby in the last 6 months.

Incentives to blood donors
In United Kingdom, blood supplies only come from unpaid, voluntary donors. The National Health Services and Blood Transfusion only accepts voluntary and non-remunerated blood donations because it works on the principles of kindness and mutual trust.

According to an NHSBT spokesperson, “Every time a person volunteers to give blood they complete a donor health check questionnaire which is designed to determine whether giving blood could harm the donor’s health, and whether they could be at an increased risk of infections which can be transmitted to patients through donated blood. The donor health check is a fundamental step in ensuring the safest possible blood for patients. This relies on donors supplying accurate and honest information.”

All donors give blood for free and there are no incentives in any form are given.

Current State of Blood Supply
Though comprised of rich constituent countries, the United Kingdom had it’s fair share of blood supply shortage. In 2009, only six percent of the British population donated blood. Blood supply scarcity may also be attributed to the fact that the younger generation do not take time to give blood.

Every day, hospitals in North Wales and England need 7,000 units of blood where each unit saves lives of three patients. Blood is constantly used for everyday medical situations like childbirth and surgery or emergencies like road accidents.

A research by National Health Service Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) shows that there was a 20% drop in the number of young people who give blood in the past decade. From 297, 593 blood donors in 2001 aged 17-34, it reduced to 237, 520 in 2011. NHSBT suggests that a lot of young people are either too busy or frightened to donate. Only 4% of eligible donors donate blood and most of these people are already above 40 years old. Only 14% of regular donors are 30 years old below.

In a survey of 1,700 people across United Kingdom and 1000 current NHSBT donors, the key factors that lead to people not donating blood are fear, ignorance and time pressure.

This 2012, the NHSBT had been very active in promoting blood donation awareness and urging more people, regular donors and first-timers alike, to give blood during the summer season. United Kingdom is busy for most of 2012 because various events are happening such as Jubilee Celebrations, Euro football championships, Olympics and Paralympics. The NHSBT have anticipated a shortage of blood supply during these festive times because people are busy attending several sporting events and donating blood is not in their “to-do” list.

Good news is, NHSBT’s campaign to drive more blood donors led to positive results. Blood stocks have been increased by 30% in preparation for the Olympics, where over 450,000 have participated and donated blood.


Stock Levels

As of September 6, 2012, the National Blood Service has 56, 638 total of blood products. O-positive has the highest blood supply with 24, 950 units, followed by A-positive with 17, 419 units while the least number of units is AB-Negative with just 382 pints left.

"Blood Stock Level on September 6, 2012"

Blood Stock Level on September 6, 2012

In the September 06, 2012 Days Stock graph, we see that AB-positive has 12.89 days stock, O-positive has 11.32 days stock, A-negative has 9.91, B-positive has 8.56, while the blood type that has the lowest days stock is B-negative with 5.19.

"Days Stock of Blood in UK on September 6, 2012"

Days Stock of Blood in UK on September 6, 2012

You can check here the current blood stocks in United Kingdom because the data changes everyday.

Blood Banks in UK

While Red Cross organizations across the world helps in blood collection and transfusion, the British Red Cross is no longer involved in blood donation. Several other organizations that accept blood donations in the United Kingdom are the National Blood Services, the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service, the Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service and the Welsh Blood Service.

The National Blood Service is the organization that collects blood and other tissues and supplies all the hospitals in North Wales and England.

The Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service (SNBTS) is a division of NHS National Services Scotland and is the provider of transfusion medicine in the area which supplies high quality blood, cells, tissues and services. They make it sure that Scotland has enough blood supply to meet the needs of the patients.

The Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service or NIBTS is an independent, Special Agency of the Department of Health and Personal Social Services that is responsible for the collection and distribution of blood donations in province. It supplies the needs of all hospitals and clinical units in the area with safe blood and blood products.

The Welsh Blood Service (WBS) is a division of Velindre NHS Trust that covers West, South and part of Mid Wales. WBS collects voluntary, non-remunerated blood donations from the public and these donations are distributed after strict processing and testing to hospitals where they support patient care.

These Blood Services are under National Health Service (NHS) and are publicly funded systems in the United Kingdom.

"More facts on UK blood donation"

United Kingdom Blood Donation Facts

United Kingdom is one of the few countries in the world that sticks to the voluntary and non-remunerated blood donation. They believe that the voluntary blood donors are the safest donors and they live up to the highest standard in blood donation and transfusion to ensure safety for both the donor and recipient. Despite the number of donors from the younger generations is on the decline, there is still hope that new ways to promote altruism will change this.

May this article be an eye opener to the people of United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland; that making blood donation a lifelong habit saves lives.

People all over the worlds have a healthy fear of needles, it makes conquering the fear worth it when lives are saved. The world may not know about your act of heroism, but the feeling of gratification knowing that you have saved lives is greater beyond any recognition could give.

Help eliminate the blood shortage, Join the International Blood Registry.

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