Wandsworth NHS desperate for life saving male blood donors

Florence Leslie
January 16 2019, 12.00

Men in Wandsworth are being urged by the NHS to donate blood in January.

Only men’s blood can be used for specialist transfusions, such as complete transfusions for newborn babies and plasma used for massive blood loss, as it contains higher iron levels.

In a statement, NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) said by November last year, 962 women from Wandsworth gave blood compared to 627 men but the NHS is now aiming for 48% of all new donors in Wandsworth to be men in 2020.

NHSBT head of donor recruitment Mike Stredder said: “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.”

Stocks are under increasing pressure and 135,000 new blood donors are needed each year to ensure there are enough blood types to match patients.

Tooting resident Natalie Stevens, 32, was dependant on blood transfusions for several months due developing aplastic anaemia in November 2018.

Miss Stevens said: “When I was told I was anaemic I thought ‘that’s good, I can take iron tablets’ but then I was told it’s not anaemia as I knew it.

“It’s basically bone marrow failure. It’s really rare, two in a million people have it.”

She added: “During that time I was having transfusions once or twice a week, totalling 23 blood and 28 platelets.”

NHSBT’s platelets donors, the blood cells used to form clots and stop bleeding, are 93% male.

She said: “I can’t give blood because I am Type 1 Diabetic. Since I’ve needed the transfusions it’s inspired quite a lot of people to go on my behalf to try and replenish what I’ve taken.”

She said from experience her female friends have been turned away because their iron is too low. 

She added: “From what I’ve seen, women are more inclined to donate blood than men, so I think encouragement for men is needed. When I suggested it to my male friends they told me they wished they had been doing it for years.

“I don’t think you can have a blood transfusion without looking at the bag and wondering who gave it and feeling grateful. I hope more men start donating in 2020.”

Miss Stevens has since received a stem cell transplant from her brother Ryan in February 2019 at St George’s hospital in London and returned to university to train as a mental health nurse.

GIVE BLOOD: Natalie was dependant on transfusions to treat her aplastic anaemia

When asked why more women than men give blood, an NHS spokesperson said: “We don’t have a definite answer but we think it’s a combination of factors. 

“We do know from our research surveys men are less likely than women to think donation will make a difference.

“Most men don’t realise we can only use their blood for certain lifesaving products.

“Other factors may include that we’ve recently recruited on social media where our accounts are more popular with women.

“We’re working with partners such as BT Sport and ITV2 to reach more men and help bring in young male donors.”

NHSBT said the universal blood group O negative and the rare B negative type are particularly vulnerable to shortfalls. 

It added NHSBT urgently needs more black donors to give blood regularly as only 2% of donors have the Ro blood type needed to treat the increasing number of patients with sickle cell disease and collecting enough blood is a constant challenge. 

Mr Stredder said: “If you can’t find an appointment right away don’t worry – your blood will do extraordinary things if you donate in a few weeks instead.”

You can find out more about becoming a blood donor at

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