Olympics could affect blood donations

NHS launches campaign ahead of 2012’s bumper sporting calendar - and top athletes support the effort.

NHS Blood and Transplant is warning that a ‘perfect storm’ could be created by next year’s bumper sporting calendar and extra bank holidays, severely affecting blood donation levels in the South West in 2012.

NHSBT statistics show that 93 per cent of donors give blood during the working week and that when there are big sporting events or a string of bank holidays national donation levels drop:

* The bumper bank holidays around Easter and the Royal Wedding Week in 2011 resulted in 3,500 fewer donations.

* Last year on one day alone there were 851 fewer donations than the previous year, constituting a 12% drop due to the combination of particularly warm, sunny weather, the World Cup Quarter Final and Andy Murray’s Wimbledon Semi Final.

Jonathan Sewell, NHSBT Register Development Manager for the South West, 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 2 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.

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“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.”

A significant drop in donations could have a massive impact on the thousands of people in England who require blood. Blood ‘products’ are not just for road traffic accidents, they are used to treat people with cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, sickle cell disease, for new mums and babies, and during surgery.

Jo Pavey, 38, from Devon, is one of the UK’s most successful distance runners and is currently training for the 2012 Olympics. Jo is supporting the NHSBT ‘Gift of Life’ campaign following her son’s life-saving experience when he was born at Kingston Hospital.

Jo said: “When our son, Jacob, was born two years ago he lost a great deal of blood and desperately needed a blood transfusion at birth. Without the blood, he simply wouldn’t have survived. It’s family occasions, like Christmas and birthdays, that remind us just how lucky we are to have our son - we’re so grateful for the blood he received.

“Unfortunately, as a professional endurance athlete I’m not able to give blood, as I need to keep my blood count high to maintain performance. However, my mother has been a donor for years and it is something I definitely plan to do when I eventually retire from professional sport. I’d urge anyone who can donate blood to do so and perhaps make it their new year’s resolution - it’s the simplest thing you can do to save a life.”

Olympic bob skeleton champion Amy Williams is a registered blood donor. Amy said: “I have been a registered donor for some time now, but my hectic training schedule means I haven’t been able to give blood lately. If there is one New Year’s resolution I’d like to make and keep for 2012 - it’s to donate blood. I urge anyone who can give blood to do so. Giving blood is so important - not only is it quick and simple, but it saves lives. Please visit www.blood.co.uk to register and find your nearest donation centre.”

You can start donating from the age of 17. So do something amazing this festive season and call 0300 123 23 23 or visit the www.blood.co.uk website to find out about your nearest blood donation session.

For more information about blood donation or to make an appointment visit www.blood.co.uk, call 0300 123 2323 or follow NHSBT at http://www.facebook.com/NHSBlood or www.twitter.com/NHSGiveBlood.