NHS launches campaign to increase male blood donors

The NHS has kicked off the new decade with a nationwide campaign to increase male blood donations. In 2019, only around 41% of new donors were male, despite male blood being used for a variety of illnesses which female blood is not able to treat.

Throughout January, the NHS will be campaigning to increase their first-time male blood donation rates by an ambitious 26% in 2020 which equates to roughly 68,000 new donors. This means that if the campaign is successful, first-time male blood donation rates will rise to 67%, overtaking female blood donation rates which reached 59% last year.

Number of annual new donations (Credit: NHS)

Every winter the NHS tries to encourage extra donations due to Christmas closures, however, donations must be regular to be effective as centres often have a “shortfall” after Christmas. A Staff Nurse from Edinburgh Blood Donation Centre says that while they do have a large number of donors, they are often irregular:

“Because we have a lot of students, you have them for a wee while then they move off… it’s just a constant battle to keep people coming in.”

Male blood exclusively is used for blood transfusions in newborn babies and provides 93% of donated platelets – an essential part of the blood’s clotting system. More than half of platelets donated are used to treat cancer patients to reduce internal bleeding. Regular donations are essential due to the shelf life of certain parts of the blood:

“Red blood cells last for about a month but platelets only last about a week, so we always need to keep going.”

Why do we need male blood?

Credit: Pixabay

Men are much more likely to have higher levels of iron compared to women as they don’t menstruate, which means that their donations are far less likely to be rejected because of low haemoglobin. This helps to maintain a level of consistency with donations which is vital to patients who receive regular transfusions throughout their lifetime.

Women are also known to produce certain antibodies and proteins during pregnancy. The presence of these antibodies affects the immune system, which can make transfusions a little more complicated.

Scared?

Voluntarily having blood sucked out of your arm is a terrifying concept to most people and this fear is why many of us choose not to donate.

If you’re thinking of donating and helping potentially hundreds of people, here are some tips to calm your nerves so you can get the most out of your life-saving donation.

Remember to eat!

An empty stomach and low blood sugar can make you feel sick and dizzy and means you are more likely to faint.

Have a snack just before you donate – high sugar snacks are preferable which gives you the perfect excuse to demolish a chocolate bar.

Stay hydrated!
Losing a fairly large volume of fluids can make you feel quite ill, so doctors recommend you drink at least 500ml of water before you donate.

Water is available at blood donation centres so remember to bring your reusable water bottle.

Distractions!
If anxiety can get the better of you in high-intensity situations, it might be worthwhile to take some time to set out your “plan of distraction” for when you’re donating.

Bring someone along with you, whether it’s your mum, your significant other or a friend – you might need a hand to hold.

If you’re donating alone, make a playlist full of your favourite inspirational songs and have your earphones at the ready to jam in your ears and drown everything else out.

Treat yourself!
You might be feeling a little dizzy or tired afterwards so head home, get comfy and spend the rest of your day on the couch with everyone’s friend Netflix.

Remember to eat and stay hydrated afterwards for the quickest recovery.

Don’t feel guilty about resting and looking after yourself – you just helped save some lives, you deserve it!

While they want as many people to donate as possible, nurses from the Edinburgh donation centre encourage you to put yourself first:

“If you get too nervous, it’s not going to work for you – it’ll just make you ill and we’re trying to make people better!”

Credit: Rhi Ramsey EN4 News

Credit: Rhi Ramsey EN4 News

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