UK blood supplies facing a ‘perfect storm’

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BLOOD transfusion chiefs have warned that next year’s bumper sporting calendar and an extra bank holiday could severely affect donations.

Some 93 per cent of donors give blood during the working week and figures show big sporting events or a string of bank holidays lead to a fall in donations.

In Yorkshire, there were 3,500 fewer donations around Easter and the Royal Wedding week earlier this year, while last year nearly 900 fewer people gave blood on one day due to a combination of warm weather, the World Cup quarter final and Andy Murray’s Wimbledon semi-final.

According to the NHS, that could add up to a “perfect storm” of conditions to affect the supply of blood for transfusions.

They know from the experience of this year, when the Royal wedding fell close to Easter, that high profile events and public holidays can result in significant changes to the number of people available, and willing, to give blood.

On one day in 2010 numbers of donations were down by 12 per cent as a result of sunny weather, the football World Cup quarter final and Andy Murray’s Wimbledon semi-final tennis match.

Darren Bowen, NHS Blood and Transplant donor relations manager in Yorkshire, said: “2012 is going to be an exciting year for the UK, but we’re concerned that the cluster of major events could dramatically impact the number of blood donations coming in.

“Approximately two million units of blood will be needed by hospitals throughout 2012, and the equivalent of 500 extra donations will be needed each week in the first six months to help us build blood stocks and cover extra potential need from Olympic visitors.” He added: “We’re calling on the public to make regular blood donation a New Year’s resolution. Whether you’ve never donated before or haven’t done for a while, please book your appointment and help save lives in 2012.”

Officials say that a significant drop in donations could have a massive impact on the thousands of people in England who require blood every day.

Blood products are used across a range of hospital specialities to treat people with cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, sickle cell disease, for new mothers and babies, and during surgery.

Rugby league legend Steve Prescott, who played for Hull FC, Wakefield Trinity Wildcats and his hometown club St Helens, is backing the push.

“I was diagnosed with a rare form of stomach cancer in 2006. The prognosis wasn’t good and doctors thought I only had another six to 12 months left to live. But five years on, I’m still here and determined to make each day count,” he said.

“People think that donated blood is only needed after car accidents, but it’s needed to treat patients with cancer, to help mums and babies after a difficult child birth, and to treat ongoing blood disorders, too.

“It takes half an hour of your time but will make a huge difference to the recipient.”

Other celebrities supporting the New Year resolution campaign include comedian Dave Spikey, Olympic runner Jo Pavey, singer Sophie Ellis-Bextor, ice skating star Jayne Torvill and TV presenters Penny Smith and Ben Fogle.

TV presenter Penny Smith said: “I have been a regular blood donor since I was 18 and love having a nice lie down and a biscuit while feeling terribly virtuous.

“I’m so pleased that I’m able give blood this Christmas and have already made my appointment to do it again in 2012.

“Giving blood is simple for the donor but it’s life-changing for the patient who receives it.

“Some 7,000 donations are needed every day to make sure there’s enough blood for those who need it.

“Make your New Year’s resolution a life-saving one. Give blood.” More than 90 per cent of donors give blood during the working week.

Anyone interested in signing up to give blood can call 0300 123 23 23 or go to