16 Jan 2020

St Helens CCG is supporting a national push to persuade men to start donating blood this new year - vital due to a serious gender imbalance in new donors.

During 2019, new statistics from NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) show that for every 100 women who started giving blood, only 70 men did the same. Only 41% of new donors were men last year.

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, NHSBT is running a national campaign about ordinary men becoming extraordinary by donating blood in a bid to meet the 26% increase in the target number of new, first time male donors it needs this year, to get a better balance for the long term.

Kirk Benyon from Whiston is supporting the campaign. “I’ve been a blood donor for a number of years.  I’m A rhesus negative which is quite a rare blood type and I’ve been told how important my donations are to people who need that particular type of blood so I was keen to do my bit.

“It is easy to sign up and book an appointment online and there are lots of nearby venues.  It’s painless and quick to donate and I’d encourage anyone to do it – and know that your donation could well help someone who really needs it.”

Mike Stredder, the head of donor recruitment for NHSBT, said: “All our donors are amazing. But we need more than 68,000 men to start donating blood this 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.

Prof Sarah O’Brien, Clinical Accountable Officer at St Helens CCG added: “I would urge as many men as possible to do something extraordinary this January and sign up to be a blood donor.  There are lots of local sessions available across the borough and you can sign up online.  It’s an amazing but incredibly easy way to help others.”

NHSBT thinks the recent gender imbalance in new donors is due to combination of factors. A recent research survey indicated that men are less likely than women to think that donation will make a difference. There are also less opportunities for successful workplace donation sessions with large numbers of potential male donors.

In recent years, NHSBT has recruited more on social media, and their social accounts are more popular with women. Over the past year, they have engaged with partners such as BT Sport, ITV2, and the computer gaming industry, to try and reach more men.

Men are valuable donors for two reasons

Firstly, they have higher iron levels, so they’re also less likely to be deferred for low haemoglobin. That is crucial for helping to maintaining a strong donor base, especially for patients who receive many hundreds or thousands of transfusions over their lifetime.

Secondly, women can produce antibodies during pregnancy, even during short pregnancies they don’t even knew about. Antibodies are part of the body’s defence system and they make transfusions more difficult. This means only men’s blood is used for some specialist transfusions and blood products.

  • Only men’s blood is used for complete blood transfusions in newborn babies (known as neonatal exchange transfusions). Men’s blood is also preferred for intrauterine transfusions (when the baby is transfused while still inside the womb).
  • Only men’s blood is used for making Fresh Frozen Plasma, which contains clotting proteins. Plasma is used for trauma patients with massive blood loss and rare diseases such as thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP).
  • Men provide 93% of platelets, which are part of the body’s blood clotting system. More than 50% of platelets go to people with cancer, to reduce internal bleeding.

To get involved, you can register to give blood today and book an appointment at a local session near you.