This afternoon was my 26th blood donation. Being a universal donor there’s a permanent shortage of my blood type as they use O- blood in any situation where they don’t already know the patient’s blood type, as a result I make it my business to donate as often as I’m allowed. So far, aside from a year off when I was technically anaemic (subsequent adjustments to my vegetarian diet have helped to redress this issue), I’ve managed to keep up the frequency.
Unfortunately, while men are allowed to donate blood every 12 weeks, today was the first Crawley-based appointment I’ve been able to find since April. Talking with members of staff and just observing conditions over the years has made it very apparent to me that NHS Blood and Transplant are facing the exact same resourcing issues as the rest of the NHS. Demand for blood certainly isn’t going down, but as the NHS struggles to operate within the financial constraints imposed by the current Government, every part of the public health sector is having to cut back to ensure people are able to continue to access treatment when they need it. Yet, you can only keep this up for so long before parts of the system start to fail. The NHS cannot function without money, but it also can’t function without blood and if you disrupt regular patterns of donation the impact upon supplies and the cost to reestablish them becomes increasingly serious. The NHS needs investment; every part of it.
But, while that’s all a concern from a health policy perspective, it should not in any way discourage you from signing up to donate blood, so long as it is healthy for you to do so. The NHS always needs blood, without it operations can’t go ahead, cancer treatment is jeopoardised and a range of health research projects are pushed back. Getting an appointment may be hard, but if donating genuinely isn’t and if you do nothing else that day you will at least have helped to save a life. Surely that’s worth a little effort and a pint of the red stuff?