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Echo Investigation: Why do only 4% of the population give blood?


ARE you part of the 96% who don’t do it, despite being able to – or the 4% who do?Our hospitals rely on people to give blood – but, despite being such an easy one to join, this life-saving community remains a small one.

I know this because, for far too many years, I was part of the 96%. I had thought about giving blood at various times but, just as quickly again, had put the idea to the back of my mind.

Then, late last year, it came up in a conversation with a donor who said: “Don’t just think about it every few years, do it – now!”

Within a couple of days, I was attending the Liverpool blood donation centre on the corner of Dale Street and Moorfields. I then wrote about it in my ECHO column, explaining: “It was easy. It was painless. It involved some lying down and, afterwards, being given a packet of biscuits. It took less than 45 minutes, despite being my first time . . . And it involved me feeling really chuffed with myself, as if I had done something significant and worthwhile.

“That’s because I had done something significant and worthwhile. I’d belatedly become a blood donor, at the age of 48.”

Now I wanted to return to the centre – ahead of my next donor appointment – to find out why that 96% figure is so high.

Donor carer Kathy Boocock says: “I am surprised that it is such a low figure who give blood, but I think people get busy with their day-to-day lives.

“A lot of people donate when they have had a loss in their family or someone with an illness – it makes them start to think about it a bit more.

“Some people are squeamish, but there really is nothing to be squeamish about.”

Despite being a coward, I can vouch for this.

Kathy adds: “When people do give blood, they then leave with a feel- good factor.”

I can vouch for that, too.

Nurse Eileen Fleming adds: “I think most people want to do good, but some do feel squeamish and worried. And it may be that they’re just hearing things from others who don’t want to do it. That might be enough to put them off.”

It’s a straightforward process. To save them having to wait, donors are asked to make appointments – online or by phone. After arriving, you are given a welcome folder and asked to fill in a questionnaire.

There are some lifestyle and health questions and all the information you give is treated as strictly confidential (it’s not passed onto your doctor). A nurse will then make a little scratch on your finger in a quick test to ensure your iron levels are OK – then you can sit back and do the great, and painless, deed before enjoying your tea (or water, or orange) and biscuits (or crisps).

And, no, I didn’t feel lightheaded afterwards – nor do the vast majority of donors.

Kevan Moore, 66, from Bromborough, has given blood 85 times, having started donating in his late teens: “I was an apprentice gas fitter and first donated when they came round to my workplace. I think a lot of people are scared of needles.

“But you don’t need to look and it’s mostly hidden anyway. I’ve never had a problem and you do walk out of here feeling good about yourself because you know you’re helping someone along the line.”

NHS Blood and Transplant is also looking for people to donate platelets, which are produced by our bone marrow and are important because they stem blood flow at the site of an injury.

Platelet transfusions are vital for cancer and transplant patients and patients who have suffered a major haemorrhage as a result of surgery or injury.

To give platelets, you have to have given blood at least once – and then it has to be a case of donating one or the other.

And while a visit to donate blood can take around 45 minutes or less (the giving blood bit only takes around 10 minutes), donating platelets can take around 1½ to two hours.

City council worker Lee Hutchinson, 41, from Anfield, who was giving platelets (for the 25th time) when I visited the Liverpool centre, says: “I started donating blood when the blood service turned up at my former workplace in Warrington.

“I gave blood about eight or nine times before I started giving platelets. Some people are scared but there’s nothing scary about it at all and the staff here are a good, friendly bunch!”

If you are generally in good health, aged 17 to 65 (if it’s your first time) and weigh at least 50kg (7st 12Ib), Kathy, Eileen and Co are waiting to meet you.

It’s easy, painless and makes you feel good. So what are you waiting for?

TO FIND out more and make an appointment, go to www.blood. co.uk or phone 0300 123 2323. And to find out more about platelets donation, visit www.blood.co.uk/ platelets

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