MSPs to look into blood donations after hearing schoolboy’s petition

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Alness Academy Pupils
From left to right: Gorgon Mokwa, Andrew Dannet, Ben Jones and Aiden McKenzie from Alness Academy

By Cara Sulieman

THE Scottish Parliament is to investigate the best way to raise awareness of the need for blood donors – after a schoolboy urged MSPs to start paying people for donations.

The Public Petitions Committee of the Scottish Parliament dismissed the idea to reward blood donors with cash.

But the move has spurred them into finding out just how else they can increase the number of donors.

Andrew Dannet, 16, submitted the original petition to the committee calling on them to do something about the low numbers of donors in Scotland.

Talking about the issue

Schoolboy Andrew said that only two per cent of the Scottish population give blood – leaving the country lagging far behind other Western countries.

Now he is thrilled that his petition – which started as part of a school project – has finally got politicians talking about the issue of raising awareness of blood donations.

He said: “It will get people talking about it.

“Blood donation is an important topic – it is something we’ve always struggled with in Scotland.

“I have been to France and there is a much higher level of awareness around blood donation – Paris is plastered in adverts for giving blood.

“We need to do something to encourage people to give more blood.”

Alness Academy

He presented his case to the Public Petitions Committee on Monday along with classmates Ben Jones and Aidan MacKenzie, both 16, who helped him develop his idea.

He submitted the petition after Alness Academy, where he is a pupil, was approached by the Fergus Cochrane from the committee and asked if they wanted to put something forward at their external meeting in the town.

And the Public Petitions Committee was so impressed by his arguments that they are writing to the Scottish Government and the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service to ask for their views on the matter.

They are also considering setting up videoconferences with other countries who have a high number of blood donors to see how they do it.

Video conferencing

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Parliament said: “The committee weren’t inclined to go with the payment for blood donations but they are going to pursue the idea of more awareness of blood donations.

“The Committee agreed to seek views from other countries on this issue. The idea was that we could do a videoconference with, for example, the Greek government health department.

“Other countries were discussed such as Germany, France, Denmark, Sweden, USA so we will start investigating how to set this up and then speak to the committee about exactly who to hear from.”

The idea of paying donors for their blood was dismissed by the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service when the petition was first put forward, saying that it makes blood donation unsafe.

Cornerstone of blood safety

Dr Moira Carter, National Donor Services Manager, said that the safest way to ensure that blood given to patients during transfusions was clean was to continue with the voluntary nature of blood donation.

She said: “There’s a huge amount of advice in relation to this. It is widely recognised that the best way to ensure blood safety is to only use voluntary non-remunerated donors.

“The World Health Organisation advice states that this is the cornerstone of blood safety.”

She went on to say that the detailed questions asked of donors before they give blood are the best way to ensure that the blood being taken is the safest that it can be.

Drug users

Dr Carter added: “Answering the questions honestly contributes 50 per cent to blood safety and ensures that we only take from donors who are at low risk of carrying infections.

“There is a lot of historical evidence from paid plasma donors in America to show that people are less likely to answer the questions honestly if there is a financial reward. They had a lot of drug users who were giving blood to fund their habit.”

Alex Ferrie, head of Geography at Alness Academy, helped organise the project for pupils.

He explained that the kids were enthusiastic about their petitions from the start.

He said: “I was quite amazed at their interest in the subject. I was really surprised that they got so into it.

“They were really dedicated, coming up at lunch time to do their research and write up and re-write the petition over again.”

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