By Poppy Bragg
Only 14 per cent of regular blood donors are aged under 30 while two thirds are over 40, according to statistics released last week during England and North Wales’ first National Blood Week.
NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT), which organised the week both to encourage more people to donate and to thank current donors, has described this generation gap as alarming.
Reasons given for not donating included being too busy, a fear of needles and a lack of clarity over what is involved, according to a National Blood Week poll of 18 to 24-year-olds.
Andy Walker, 28, from west London, who has been donating blood since he was 17, said that signing up to be a donor is a simple process and the actual giving of blood painless.
He said: “After my first time giving blood I continued to go roughly every four months, although I did lapse for a bit having moved house and being particularly busy.
“Recently a friend of mine had their life saved by a blood transfusion and I have now started going again regularly.
“No-one should find that they are too busy to spare an hour to save a life.”
Thousands of people each year need blood transfusions for a variety of different reasons including childbirth, during routine and emergency operations and to treat blood diseases.
Lin Celand, 28, from Tunbridge Wells, Kent, said she saw how important blood donations were when her father, who was suffering from leukaemia and a stomach tumour, needed an operation in 2009.
She said: “Without the emergency blood transfusion my father would not have been strong enough to undergo the life saving three hour intensive surgery.
“I am so grateful for the kindness of the people who donated their blood and saved my Dad’s life.”
Currently only four per cent of the population eligible to donate blood does so, according to the NHSBT.
Provided that all these people donate the three times a year that they are permitted to, the small percentage is not itself a problem, NHSBT said.
But this is not always the case which, when combined with the 200,000 people who drop off the register each year, is the reason more donors are needed.
This year, for the first time, NHSBT decided to hold a week long programme of events between June 13 – 19 to coincide with this date.
Pam Prescott, a spokesperson from NHSBT, said: “The week went really well and exceeded our expectations.
“We had hoped to get 10,000 people to make a date to donate blood, and while we have not yet completed official evaluations of the week we know that more than this have signed up.”
The NHSBT is continuing to appeal for new donors to register and help ensure that the NHS receives the 7,000 units of blood it needs every day.
To find out more information about donating blood, including the location of your nearest centre, go to www.blood.co.uk or call NHSBT on 0300 123 2323.