Up to the end of November last year, 12,408 women started donating blood in the south east, but only 8,727 men – an imbalance which is reflected nationally.
NHS Blood and Transplant said this is a concern because men have higher iron levels, and only men’s blood can be used for some transfusions and products.
Throughout January, NHS Blood and Transplant is running a national campaign about ordinary men becoming extraordinary by donating blood.
People supporting the campaign include 67-year-old Helen Preece from Yapton, near Arundel.
She has a rare form of blood cancer and currently relies on blood transfusions every two weeks to stay alive.
Helen, a former shop manager for Age UK who is treated at St Richard’s Hospital in Chichester, has been transfusion dependent for two years and recently had her 100th transfusion.
Her condition is incurable, though at present her illness is stable.
She said: “Blood donation is enabling me to spend more time with my husband and family. I have four grown-up children and 12 grandchildren.
“I am very grateful to all the nurses that administer the transfusions and it’s just amazing that people donate. It’s an extraordinary thing to donate, and I hope more men start donating in the new year.”
Men are valuable donors for two reasons:
• Firstly, they have higher iron levels. Each time they try and donate, they are less likely to be deferred for low haemoglobin levels. That helps maintain a strong donorbase, which is particularly crucial for people who need hundreds, or even thousands, of transfusions over their lifetime.
• Secondly, women can produce antibodies during pregnancy, even during short pregnancies they do not even know about. Antibodies are part of the body’s defence system and they make transfusions more difficult. This means men’s blood is only used for some specialist transfusions and blood products. Only men’s blood is used for complete blood transfusions in newborn babies, and also for plasma, which is used for people who have had massive blood loss. NHS Blood and Transplant also gets 93 per cent of its platelets from male donors – they are mostly given to cancer patients to cut internal bleeding.
Mike Stredder, the head of donor recruitment for NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “All our donors are amazing, but we need more men to start donating blood in the south east during the new 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.
“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.”
To find out how you can become a blood donor visit www.blood.co.uk