World Blood Donor Day 2019: Who can give blood and how to do it in the UK

Blood donation is a simple, virtually painless process that takes less than an hour to complete, but the number of donors must be rapidly increased to ensure a reliable supply of blood for those who depend on it.

On Friday, World Blood Donor Day is encouraging people to donate blood - an essential liquid in the healthcare system allowing medical procedures we take for granted to take place. It is one of eight global public health campaigns led by the World Health Organisation (WHO) which hopes to bring attention to the need for more safe blood.

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Each year, World Blood Donor Day is given a different theme, with 2019's being “Be there for someone else. Give blood. Share life".

This year the campaign focuses on blood donation and universal access to safe blood transfusion, encouraging people to become donors and donate regularly.

According to the NHS, 135,000 new donors are needed every year to ensure it has the right mix of blood groups to meet patient needs now and in the future.

“Voluntary blood donors come from all walks of life but they have one thing in common: they put others before themselves - people they don’t even know,” said Dr Ed Kelley, Director of the Department of Service Delivery and Safety at WHO.

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“Each time they donate blood, they commit an act of selfless heroism.”

Here is a guide to how you can donate blood in the UK:

Who can donate blood?

The NHS states that anyone between the age of 17 and 66 can donate blood as long as they are fit and healthy and weigh between 7 stone 12 lbs and 25 stone, or 50kg and 160kg.

Those over 70 who have donated within the last two years may continue to do so.

Before donating, people are asked some confidential questions about their general health and will undergo a simple blood test to ensure their blood is suitable to donate.

You are unable to give blood if you are ill, suffering from an infection, pregnant or on certain medication.

If you have been travelling recently that may also affect your ability to donate blood and you must also wait at least 24 hours after having work done at the dentist.

You cannot donate blood if you are HIV positive, a hepatitis B or C carrier, ever been treated for syphilis or injected recreational drugs.

How can I register?

New blood donors in England and parts of Wales can quickly register to donate online or over the phone through NHS Blood and Transplant.

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In Scotland people can register online or over the phone through the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service (SNBTS) and in Northern Ireland people can submit an online form through Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service (NIBTS).

Where can I donate?

NHS Blood and Transplant collects 1.8 million units of blood each year from 23,000 blood donations sessions across England and North Wales. To find your nearest blood donation centre you can call NHS Blood and Transplant for free to make an appointment or enter your postcode to search for your nearest centre. In Scotland, SNBTS’s post code finder shows people's closest blood donation centres or alternatively people can ring to book an appointment.
For those in Northern Ireland, NIBTS has a comprehensive list of all the locations where blood donation sessions are currently booked.

What does the blood donation process involve?

Once you have passed all necessary health checks, you will be able to donate blood.

It usually takes five to 10 minutes for a blood donation to be collected. During most blood donations, approximately 470ml (just under one pint) of blood is taken.

This amount is only around 10 per cent of an adult's blood supply and your body will be able to replace it very quickly.

What happens to my blood once it has been donated?

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Blood donations are used in a wide variety of situations to treat a large number of different illnesses and conditions.

As well as saving lives, blood donations can also help improve the quality of life of people with a terminal illness.

In 2016, a new messaging system launched to tell donors through text message when their blood is being sent to hospital to be used by someone who needs it.