A lot of people ask the question ‘Why should I give blood?’ and the most appropriate response to that question is … why not? In under one hour, one person can give just a single unit of blood, which can help to save the lives of multiple people. Blood donations are essential for patients in all forms of care such as those in emergency care, for example people who have been a serious accident, patients in some types of surgeries or for general testing for matches for transplants. Also, other medical disorders such as blood disorders, chronic illnesses and cancer require quite frequent blood transfusions. It is shocking to discover that over 90% of people who are eligible to donate blood do not do so, meaning that there is always a need for new donors. A single blood donation can be given to up to four separate patients increasing each person’s chances of a better outcome and hope for survival.
A recent study by the National Blood Foundation, found that when more than 5,000 people, who were donating blood frequently at the time or who have given blood frequently in the past, were asked why it is that they donate blood nearly 75 percent of them responded that they give blood in order to help others. It was also said that giving blood makes them feel good about themselves as they feel that they are supporting their local communities and hospitals and potentially paying back society for any times when they themselves or members of their families had required blood transfusions in the past. For all these reasons and more, donating blood is an amazing initiative however for some reason the statistics are stating that 90 percent of eligible people are not donating, and for what reason? This essay will research into what methods the world is currently using in order to incentivise blood donations, what is currently preventing the world’s population from donating blood and which combination of these techniques is the most effecting resulting in the most donation in order to give a plan for making England’s blood donation the highest possible.
The simplest acts have the capability of having the largest impacts. For more than 70 years British volunteers have been donating their time and blood to save millions of lives in an act that costs them next to nothing. The National Blood Transfusion Service was initially created as a response to a multitude of wartime casualties needing blood transfusions, which is a form of treatment that was originally created during world war one meaning that small scale donations were given at the time mainly being almost from patient to patient, which then became a much larger manifestation of donations during the second world war. Blood banks were created to store the blood needed in order to save the lives of civilians and soldiers who were injured for simply living their lives or by fighting to save our country. These banks were later placed under the control of the Ministry of Health in September 1946 when the National Blood Transfusion Service was then created. In 1946, there were around 270,000 people willing and able to donate giving a blood collection of just under 200,000 units per year. However, in 2015 closer to 900,000 people donated with around 154,000 of these people giving blood for the first time in their lives, collectively giving about 1.6 million units of blood. Every day the NHS requires over 6,000 more new people to donate in order to keep up with the demand from patients in hospitals and homes across the country.
One usage of the blood that is donated is it being used to treat patients with a variety of medical conditions such as blood disorders, cancer and anaemia or to help replace the blood lost from patients during surgery. Each donation is split into its components, these being red blood cells, platelets and plasma, meaning that each individual patient can be given the component that they require in order to help them to recover. This means that every donation is put to its best use and each donor has therefore given the most that they can through one donation as it is split and used for treating multiple patients. The use of donated blood in hospitals can be summarised into two ways, as blood transfusions for the patients who are getting better, for example people who are having surgery or who have an ongoing medical condition, or as a transfusion for the patients who are getting worse, for example for people whose condition is incurable with the blood meant to simply give these patients a better quality of life for the short time that they have left in this life. In 2014, according to hospital records, of the blood supply given to hospitals across the country over a year long period; 67 percent was used to treat medical conditions, 27 percent was used during surgery and 6 percent was used to treat blood loss after childbirth.
Although there has been a staggering increase in donations since 1946 there has also been a large increase in the age range and diversity of the patients not only within those who donate blood at donation centres but who require the blood transfusions themselves meaning that there is currently a large scale government request for more of the ethnic minorities to donate with all different blood types. Although every blood type is in demand there is a specific call for donors of blood types O negative and A negative as both groups are currently used the most often with O negative being a universal type meaning it can be used in all emergencies where the patients’ blood type is unknown. As well as this, currently over half of all blood donors are over the age of 45 meaning that with aging donors who could soon be too old or unwell to be donating, we therefore are gravely in need of the younger generations to step up and begin to donate as well as more black and South Asian people to comply with the ethnic diversity of patients as blood matching the history and type of a patient is much more likely to give a positive result in aiding to save or improve the life of the receiver. A lot has changed since 1946 but we still have a long way to come before making the blood donation process as simple and as appealing to the English public as possible, The booking of appointments is currently considered to be the simplest way to book yet, which has been made possible by using online booking and when at the appointment the timeless tradition of free tea and biscuits is still available with the new updates of free Wi-Fi and soft drinks for those who are for some reason, opposed to tea. After giving blood donors are sent a text message to inform them when and where their donation has been used to help others giving them reason to feel good about themselves.
Different countries across the world have different donation policies and therefore different rates of donation from many different forms of giving. Across the globe, 108 million donations are made every year by willing volunteers which are collected from over 168 separate countries all having in place a system of collecting blood meaning that quantities can be recorded and reported to the World Health Organisation. There are different policies for the rules and regulation of giving blood from country to country, usually varying according to the country’s general income. For example, 81 percent of high-income countries have their own national policy for blood donation, making up over 50 percent of donation, while 44 percent of countries with low income have a set policy which all participants must abide by. All countries can choose to use any of the three methods to persuade its residents to donate, these being unpaid volunteers, paid volunteers and individual patients family members.
Obviously, using unpaid donors and different patient’s family members are the most efficient way for each country to maintain their blood donation rates. The World Health Organisation stated that we should be aiming for 100 percent of donors being unpaid by 2020, which has currently not been achieved. In 2016, 62 countries had 100 percent of their donations given by unpaid volunteers and 72 countries were close to this with 93 percent from unpaid volunteers. Currently only 25 countries offer payment for all forms of donation and countries such as China, Germany, Russia and the USA pay for the donation of plasma but not of whole blood. Similarly, in some country’s adults are given time off work in order to be able to donate blood meaning there is no excuse of a lack of time preventing people from contributing to their community by giving blood. This therefore gives reason to the statistics that in higher income countries, such as those aforementioned above, the most common age bracket of people who donate blood is between 25 and 45, whereas in lower income countries the general age bracket is in the younger generations being 18 to 24.
Research shows that, somewhat confusingly, gender currently plays quite a significant role in the donation of blood. Different genders currently donate in no way equally as globally only 33 percent of blood donations are from female donors meaning that 66 percent of donations are from men even though the global ratio of men to women is only separated by close to one in one hundred people, being 101 men to 100 women. Although the data varies widely from country to country, the data shown by the statistic that only 10 percent of blood is donated by women in 14 out of 111 countries used in this study, the facts still stand that women are much less likely to donate blood than men.
There are many reasons as to why this may be the case, and although spoken aloud some of these reasons may be seen as sexist, it could be said that men are simply braver than women or more likely feel that they have to be seen as being braver and therefore participate more readily in something that many members of the general public can be seen as scary and possibly painful. The truth however is much simpler, is that it is most likely actually just to blame of the biology. Mainly portrayed in British donating regulations, it is stated that although a man must wait 12 weeks between each donation of whole blood, it is recommended that women wait 16 weeks between donations which means that even if every eligible person in the world donated blood, it is simply impossible for women to give 50 percent of donations as a longer waiting time is required. Back in 2012 the NHS was updating it system for the booking of appointments in order to give blood, after research proved that it was most suitable for men to donate every 12 weeks as the levels of certain substances in their blood that would usually effect their ability to donate blood was most likely to have gone back to normal after this many weeks of waiting between appointments.
However with the technology available in 2012 ,the system that was newly used at the time didn’t have the feature to be able to distinguish between male and female donors meaning that the opportunity to book a donation appointment every 12 weeks was given to everyone, of all genders, which was potentially harmful to women who were unaware of the, at the time not particularly well advertised, suggested difference in time between the amount of weeks from one donation to the next for regular givers. In 2018 the system was updated once again this time with the ability to distinguish between women and men meaning that appointments were only offered to men every 12 weeks and therefore safely offered to women every 16 weeks. The reasoning behind the required difference in timeline of a woman to a man’s donation period is because of a difference in blood iron levels, that difference being that a womans iron levels are significantly lower than those in men. Oxygen is carried around the body in red blood cells via a protein called hemoglobin of which an essential component for its creation is iron. Iron is placed into the bloodstream through dietary absorption meaning that during blood donation about 200-250mg of iron is taken from your body which is required to be replaced before donating again.
The body can replace the iron from your blood lost at about 1-2mg a day via dietary absorption, however this can vary massively depending upon the levels of iron in your blood prior to donating and whether or not a person is taking supplements or eating an iron rich diet. As well as this there are a few types of people who are more likely to be at risk for developing an iron deficiency, those being young and more frequent donors, and women during menstruation. Replacing iron in the blood to a sufficient level simply through a healthy diet can take quite a while especially when any of these factors are entailed. As menstruation happens monthly for most women it then seems obvious that it will take women longer to build back up a healthy supply of iron in the blood and therefore require a longer period between donations. It would be dangerous if a patient were to donate whilst having insufficient iron levels in their blood as too low levels of iron can cause anemia which is a disease which can make you more at risk and susceptible to sickness and infection and can generally make you more lethargic and at risk of complications with your heart and lungs.
This is why each donor, of all genders, is screened before giving blood to ensure that the iron levels in their blood are suitable for giving and that each patient can give blood in a healthy and safe way.