Over 129,500 blood donations were collected in Ireland last year, a new report has shown.
According to the 2018 Annual Report of the Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS), a total of 129,589 donations were collected from 79,628 donors.
The report noted that while the number of donations was down by 977 when compared to 2017, the number of donors increased by 247 during the same time.
The slight fall in donations in 2018 was attributed to the impact of severe weather events, which had an impact on collections.
"IBTS, like all public bodies, was challenged early on in 2018 with dealing with the effects of Storm Emma and the Beast from the East. The organisation managed very well and it tested our contingency arrangements and how risk was managed.
"The staff response was excellent and ensured that hospitals and patients received blood and blood products when required. When we asked donors to donate post the storms to replenish the blood supply, they responded magnificently and ensured that we could maintain the blood supply," explained IBTS chief executive, Andy Kelly.
The report showed that of the 79,628 people who donated blood in 2018, 44,160 donated just once, however 35,468 donated more than once. Some 1,775 donated four times during the year, while 19 donors donated five or more times.
Last year also saw an increase in the number of first-time donors when compared to 2017. Altogether, there were 17,248 first-time blood donors in 2018 compared to 16,508 in 2017. Although both of these figures were well below 2016's figure of 20,648 first-time donors.
The report also revealed that more men donated blood last year than women (55% versus 45%), and almost 44% of donations came from people with O+ blood.
Meanwhile, in 2018, people aged between 46 and 52 donated the most blood (13,687 donations), while those aged between 18 and 24 donated the least amount (1,859).
According to IBTS chairperson, Linda Hickey, IBTS is a "unique organisation".
"While we can control how we process and distribute blood products, we do not control the supply and are entirely dependent on the community spirit of people all around the country to attend our centres and mobile clinics.
"They turn up in their numbers day in and day out because they know that the need for blood is a constant through the year, and we are hugely grateful for their generosity," she said.
Commenting on the report, the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, welcomed the news that the number of donors and first time donors had increased in 2018.
"In 2018, IBTS was faced with a number of challenges, but primarily among them was Storm Emma. The impact of the storm left the blood supply severely depleted due to the necessary cancellation of clinics nationwide. The Irish people showed extraordinary leadership during this time and continued to donate blood and maintain the vital supply of blood to our hospitals during this period," he said.
However, he noted that the number of donations coming from people aged 18 to 24 is small and "we need to see what we can do to improve that".
Every year in Ireland, about 1% of the population needs a blood transfusion and one in four people will require blood at some point in their lives. IBTS needs 3,000 blood donations every week to meet demand.
For more information on donating blood, or to find out about clinics nearby, visit giveblood.ie.
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