Blood donations in Tooting almost doubled in five years despite national drop

 Donations at Tooting Blood Donor Centre have increased by almost 100% since 2013, a freedom of information request found.

There were 12,730 blood donations at the centre in 2017, compared to their 2013 figure which stood at 6,459.

This is partly because the number of blood donors registered at the centre, based in St George’s Hospital, went up by 800 from 3,231 in 2012 to 4,035 in 2017, with men and women able to donate multiple times per year.

On top of that, by opening for six rather than the original four days a week, and increasing the number of beds from one bed in 2010 – which allowed for an average of 10 donors per day – to the current three beds allowing for around fifty donors per day, the centre managed to significantly boost its blood donations.

However, the Donor Centre’s manager Sylvia Emerson, cautioned: “The actual number we collected for Tooting has gone up but the number we collected nationally hasn’t gone up because our demand for blood has decreased slightly.

“It’s an international situation whereby we’re not using as much blood, because of the way we’ve taught the hospitals how to use blood.

“So we’re not needing as much blood, but we are needing specific types of blood.”

The specific types of blood Ms Emerson is referring to are the O-negative, B-negative and Ro blood groups, which are more likely to be found among black, Asian and minority ethnic groups.

Only last month there was a nationwide call for increased blood donations from minority ethnic groups, who accounted for less than 5% of blood donations last year.

But despite Tooting’s impressive growth of yearly blood donations, the shortfalls in the rarer blood types prompted the centre to temporarily use an extra bed.

“It has meant that over the past eight weeks or so we have had on average 40 extra donors a week which is a fantastic result and the team are to be congratulated for this achievement,” Ms Emerson said.

Marketing manager at the Tooting Blood Donor Centre, Tom Aggett, said that the NHS has been altering their marketing methods to attract these specific groups, but highlighted the problems with doing this.

He said: “We have tried to integrate targeting people with specific blood groups, and that is increasingly hard as there are not many people who know their blood type so we are doing the best we can.

“It’s almost like finding a needle in a hay stack if you don’t know someone’s blood type before donation, so we encourage people to come in and donate for the first time and find out their blood type.”

The 2011 census revealed that the average age of the Tooting population was 33 and around 47% of the population were born outside of England.

A spokesperson for NHS Blood and Transplant said: “Our Tooting blood donation centre is located in a prime area to recruit [black African, black Caribbean, mixed race and South Asian] donors and reach out to younger donors.”

Ms Emerson has said, however, that the donor centre is considering opening for seven days a week in order to combat the crisis.

The NHS also needs nearly 200,000 new blood donors every year to replace those who no longer donate for reasons such as ill health, pregnancy or foreign travel.

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