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Giant’s Causeway used to ask for 8,000 new NI blood donors

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In Northern Ireland three people are being transfused every hour thanks to the generosity of blood donors.

Blood donation saves lives. But Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service is uniting with blood donor organisations across 21 countries to highlight an almost 30% international drop in people becoming blood donors compared to a decade ago. 2

In a survey for the Missing Type campaign, participating blood services reported the number of people becoming donors and giving blood for the first time was 1,830,003 in 2005 and 1,324,980 in 2015 – a drop of 27.6% in 2015 compared to 2005. Across the Missing Type countries, which cover one billion of the world’s population, there are some differences in the numbers of donors and blood groups most in demand but all share the need for more new donors. The number of people becoming donors and giving blood for the first time in Northern Ireland actually decreased by 35.7% during the same period.

The campaign – first held in England and North Wales by NHS Blood and Transplant in 2015 – this year brings together 25 blood services from 21 countries who are each calling for new donors to ensure blood donation for future generations.

Throughout the campaign As, Bs and Os, the letters of the main blood groups, will disappear in everyday and iconic locations including the Giant’s Causeway and Crumlin Road Gaol. The letters will also be disappearing from famous locations in Australia, America, Japan, Ireland, England, and many more countries. A number of high profile brands, individuals and organisations are backing the campaign in Northern Ireland, with the Daily Mirror, Phoenix Gas, Connswater Shopping Centre, Macmillan, Allstate Northern Ireland, Cancer Focus, ACA Models and the Institute of Directors just some of those taking part. Celebrities from around the world are also going to show their support.

Additionally, patients whose lives were saved by transfusions have thanked blood donors in a moving video called Talking Heads, to highlight that in a world without As, Bs and Os, they would not be here today. The video features Adrian Moat from Belfast, who originally started an awareness campaign for blood donation on Facebook in 2015. But it was while running marathons earlier this year to raise awareness for another good cause that Adrian himself needed a blood transfusion. Something as simple as a cough tore a hole in Adrian’s oesophagus, causing internal bleeding and requiring two units of blood and a short stay in hospital. Adrian was himself already a blood donor after seeing an advertisement appealing for donors. “I saw how quick and easy it was. It just takes 45 minutes and now I am glad other people take the same attitude because there was blood available when I needed it.”

Paul McElkerney, Donor Recruitment and Organisation Manager for Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service which collects, tests and processes blood for hospitals across the province, said: “Blood transfusions save lives and transform health for millions across the world. But they are dependent on people donating blood. Whether it is patients receiving treatment for cancer, blood disorders, after accidents or during surgery, or new mums who lost blood in childbirth, blood is an absolutely essential part of modern healthcare.

“We really hope that people living in Northern Ireland will be inspired by the Missing Type campaign to join the global community of life savers and become a new blood donor. Giving blood is such an easy thing to do and it has amazing results.”

Key barriers to people coming forward to donate that were identified by blood services around the world include:

  • increasing urbanisation
  • wider and more exotic travel
  • people having less time to give in an increasingly busy and digital world
  • a rise in the popularity of tattoos

In Northern Ireland it is possible to start donating from the age of 17 yet only 6% of the eligible population donate. Although the generosity of current donors means that hospitals have the blood needed to treat patients and there is not a crisis in blood stocks, Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service still need over 150 new donors to come forward every week.

Jon Latham from NHS Blood and Transplant, the service which has co-ordinated the campaign, said: “We’re delighted Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service is taking part in the Missing Type campaign.  It doesn’t matter where you’re from in the world, there will be patients in your country whose lives depend on transfusions. And I really hope that the Missing Type campaign will motivate more people to come forward in Northern Ireland to start saving lives. Hopefully by working together we can reverse the international decline in new donors.”

There are a number of ways you can support the Missing Type campaign in Northern Ireland:

  • Enrol as a new blood donor by visiting www.nibts.org, calling 0500 534 666 or texting BLOOD to 60081
  • Drop into a local blood donation session and donate blood
  • Support the campaign on Facebook and Twitter @givebloodni #MissingType

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