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Donating Blood in The UK

Updated on September 15, 2014


This is a personal account of my experiences donating blood in the UK over the past 10 years.

My dad was a blood donor for many years and this encouraged me to begin my own blood donation career just 4 days after my 17th birthday. Since then, I have donated over 25 pints of blood and I'm also on the Bone Marrow Register.

I am very proud to say that I am a blood donor and frequently drop it in to conversation.

I have written this blog to answer some Frequently Asked Questions and to remove

I've tried to answer as many questions as possible but if you have a question that isn't answered here, please leave a comment and I'll add it to the list.

Question 1 Does donating blood hurt?

The pain experienced with donating blood in the UK is very minimal and feels similar to a small, sharp pinch on your skin only as the needle initially enter your arm and fades after a few seconds. Having said that, everyone’s pain threshold is different but if you can handle a little pinch in the arm then you should be fine.

Some people experience bruising afterwards but this is nothing to be worried about and is quite normal. All bruising should subside within a few days after donating blood.

Question 2 How long does it take to donate blood?

Many people say that they do not have enough time to donate blood but the process of givng blood is actually completed very quickly. I run my own website design business so I find that I'm often very short on time.

Once you have signed in, you will be asked to have a short wait until you have your blood screened. After this, you will be asked to have another small wait before your actual blood donation takes place. Following your donation, you will be asked to have a small rest on the bed and then make your way over to the refreshment table for a cup of tea or a soft drink. A typical blood donation session in the UK can be completed in less than 30 minutes.

Question 3 How safe is donating blood?

There is absolutely no danger associated with donating blood in the UK. The very worst thing that can possibly happen is for the plaster to fall off and then allowing your arm to bleed. However, the plasters that are used today are so strong that removing them is often the most painful part of the entire process!

As your would expect from the National Health Service, all of the equipment used during your donation is incredibly sterile and you will never be put at any risk of infection.

Question 4 Can I still give blood if I take medication?

I had to start taking a medication before my 22nd blood donation and assumed that I would no longer be eligible to donate blood. I contacted the people at the National Blood and Transfusion Service who informed me that I could in fact still give blood!

Of course, there are some medications that have been blacklisted by the NHS so I would strongly suggest contacting them to see if you can still donate blood.

Booking an appointment

You don’t necessary have to book your appointment your donate blood and the nurses always accept drop-in donors. However, I would highly recommend booking your appointment prior to turning up as this makes the whole process a lot quicker for you.

It's very easy to book your appointment online and you can always go back and amend or cancel your appointment to donate blood using the online tool.

Signing in

I will explain this stage from the perspective of a first-time donor (no point explaining something to someone who’s already done it!). The donor sessions are organised at places such as church halls, community centres, etc so there is ample parking. Once you’ve announced yourself to a member of the care team, you’ll be taken through to a room where you can have a private and confidential chat with a nurse, who will run through some screening questions.

Screening your blood sample

Next up is the screening stage where a different care member will take a small sample of blood from your middle finger of one of your hands (you can specify which). The sample is taken with a short, sharp prick with a needle and is extracted using a vacuum squeezy thing. The sample is then dropped into blue and green liquid to determine if your iron levels are sufficient for giving blood. You’ll then be asked to take a seat and wait for the next nurse available to look after you during your donation.

Your blood donation

Well done if you’ve got this far you’re almost done. Once you’ve got a bed, you’ll need to roll up your sleeves (again you can choose which arm you’re more comfortable with giving). You’ll be asked to answer some questions such as your name, date of birth and address – this is just to verify you are who you say you are.

After the donation

For your first donation, I would recommend taking along a friend to drive for you. It’s perfectly safe to drive but if you suddenly find yourself a bit weak you could end up stranded. Until you know how it affects you, take this step with caution many people react differently. Many have no reactions whatsoever.


Make yourself a cup of tea, put your feet up. Your body will only need an hour or so to make up the pint of blood that you've donated, however, this is a strenuous timeyou’re your body (especially your heart) so it’s important to rest. Your job here is done. Have you ever considered donating bone marrow? This is an INCREDIBLY important donation that could potentially save someone's life.


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    • iain-mars profile image

      iain-mars 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hi Nell - in the UK you have to be over 7st 12lb (49kg) to be eligible to give blood. thanks

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 6 years ago from England

      Hi, my aunt donated for years, its a great idea, and something that everybody should do. I believe you have to be over a certain weight to do it though, is that true? thanks nell