Blood Shortages due to lack of Awareness

by Orla O Muiri

Both Ireland and the UK suffer from low blood supplies because of a lack of awareness. The population of Ireland is over four million. Yet, only 3% of the population give blood. In the UK, the situation is worse with 4% of adults actively donating, providing blood for a population of 61 million.

John Kelly, Clerical Officer of Ireland’s said; “Despite the fact that we appear to have a high amount of donors compared to the UK figures. We still run short on supplies as over 3,000 blood donations are needed in Ireland every week.”

The world is seemingly oblivious to the posters, the tv adverts, the leaflets, and the free merchandise used by Ireland’s blood organization ‘’ and the UK’s ‘National Blood Service’ to encourage citizens to donate. Otherwise they are choosing to ignore them because of their pre conceived notions of what is involved in giving blood.

Andrew Pearce, Head of Donor Advocacy at the National Blood Service said; “Although we do tailor the way in which we advertise our sessions and appeal for blood to encourage certain people to donate, we can not always identify why people do not wish to give blood, as this could be for many reasons. We supply approximately 37,000 units of blood (red cells) each week to the hospitals.”

There are two systems of blood classification; the ABO system and the Rhesus system. Within this, there are eight sub categories of O-, O+, A-, A+, B-, B+, AB- and AB+.

One in four people will need a blood transfusion at some point in their lives.

Kathleen Furlong (60) retired nurse and blood donor said; “I like the idea that my blood has saved a life, it makes me feel good. I don’t understand people who don’t donate but expect to receive if it was them in an accident, there is a lack of awareness there.”

David Daly (34) accountant and non donor said; “It never occurred it to me to give blood and when it did it did not seem like much fun, time off work, needles, hospitals full of bugs. It’s just not for me.”

A unit of Blood lasts for just 36 days and the stock levels are falling. Stock Level’s in England taken on 06 Mar 2011 reveal a low supply in both AB negative (447) and B negative (866) blood. The total count of blood in England at the moment is 52,191 units  to serve a population of  61 million. Platelets have a shorter shelf life of five days. Around 22,000 doses are used in Irish hospitals per week.

The system of blood donation clinics in Ireland and the UK differ due to population dispersal. The UK has permanent blood bank establishments whereas Ireland has mobile clinics which travel around the country.

Kelly said; “What must be taken into consideration is the distribution of population in the rural setting. To have permanent clinics located in the two major cities in the country, and some of the smaller cities for example Limerick, Waterford, Kilkenny and Galway would require increased staff, equipment and fixed venues. These clinics would not serve the surrounding towns very well.”

Pearce said, “There are operational benefits in terms of having a purpose-built building and facilities at a permanent blood clinic, and this arrangement offers more flexibility for donors in the area who know they can attend on any day rather than perhaps 1 day every 4 months.  The disadvantages include the fact that for a clinic to be productive there needs to be enough potential donors in the area to keep the clinic full every day bearing in mind that donors can only give once every 12 weeks.”

The act of giving blood takes approximately 8-15 minutes, the total volume of blood donated is 470ml, which is less than a pint. Human beings contain the equivalent of ten pints. The blood organisations encourage a gap of 90 days between each donation, that is four times a year and four lives saved. World Blood Donor Day (WBDD) takes place on 14 June. The National Blood Service website says; “It is an opportunity to express gratitude to those who donate their blood in order to save lives without expecting anything in return.”