NHS needs more men to start donating blood during 2020

Posted in News

There is a vital need for more men in the West Midlands to start donating blood in the New Year because of a serious imbalance in the gender of new donors.

During 2019, only 42% of the new donors in the West Midlands region were men. Until the end of November, 8,907 women started donating blood in the West Midlands but only 6,453 men. The imbalance reflects a national trend.

This is a concern because men have higher iron levels, and only men’s blood can be used for some transfusions and products. Without more men starting to give blood, blood stocks will come under increasing pressure in future years.

Throughout January, NHS Blood and Transplant is running a national campaign about ordinary men becoming extraordinary by donating blood. NHSBT is aiming for 48% of all new donors in the West Midlands to be male during 2020.

The appeal is particularly focused on large urban areas with permanent donor centres, such as:

  • The West Midlands County – only 42% of the new donors in the West Midlands County were men. Until the end of November, 5,993 women started donating blood in the West Midlands but only 4,257 men.

People supporting the campaign include Genna Vernon and Nick Hogan from Donnington. Genna and Nick’s four-year-old son Joey Hogan has lifesaving blood transfusions every month at the Princess Royal Hospital in Telford for the very rare blood disorder diamond blackfan anaemia.

His bone marrow cannot make enough red blood cells to carry oxygen around his body. He has had 58 transfusions. Genna, 29, said: “Without blood transfusions, he would become severely anaemic because he doesn’t produce the red cells himself to carry the oxygen round his body, so he wouldn’t survive.

“He’s doing fantastic at swimming, football, and dance club, and was chosen to play Joseph in his nursery nativity. And he’s now enjoying the responsibility of being a big brother to his baby sister Marnie.

“We are so grateful to everyone who has donated blood and kept our boy alive. Blood donation is extraordinary and we hope more men start donating blood in the New Year.”

Men are valuable donors for two reasons.

Firstly, they have higher iron levels. Each time they try and donate, they’re less likely to be deferred for low haemoglobin levels. That helps maintain a strong donorbase, which is particularly crucial for people who need hundreds of even thousands of transfusions over their lifetime.

Secondly, women can produce antibodies during pregnancy, even during short pregnancies they don’t even know about. Antibodies are part of the body’s defence system and they make transfusions more difficult. This means men’s blood is only used for some specialist transfusions and blood products.  Only men’s blood is used for complete blood transfusions in newborn babies, and also for plasma, which is used for people who’ve had massive blood loss. NHSBT also gets 93% of its platelets from male donors – they are mostly given to cancer patients to cut internal bleeding.

Mike Stredder, head of donor recruitment for NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “All our donors are amazing. But we need more men to start donating blood in the West Midlands during the New Year. Men’s blood can be used in extraordinary, lifesaving ways, but we don’t have enough new male donors coming forward. This is not about recruiting as many donors as possible – it’s about getting the right gender mix.

“If you can’t find an appointment right away don’t worry – your blood will do extraordinary things if you donate in a few weeks instead.”