A MAJOR push to get more young people giving blood has started after numbers dropped alarmingly.

The number of 17- to 24-year- olds registering to give blood in Oxfordshire so far this year is 1,811 – a 28 per cent drop on 2007 when 2,511 people in that age group became donors.

And the fall was even more significant in Oxford itself, with just 585 new donors aged 17 to 24 so far this year, compared to 1,079 in 2007, a 46 per cent drop.

The NHS Blood and Transplant service is aiming to attract 100,000 new donors nationwide in the next 100 days, including 8,000 from Oxfordshire.

Lead donor relations manager Dominic Sutherland said: “Young donors are the donors of the future so we need to try to get the message in early.

“We think the main reason behind this drop is the lack of awareness of blood donation, exaggerated due to things like fear of needles. We also know one in 10 people aged 17 to 24 feel their lives are too busy.”

Every month, the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust uses about 1,000 litres of blood across the John Radcliffe, Churchill and Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre in Oxford and the Horton Hospital in Banbury, and an average of about 600 litres is donated in Oxfordshire each week.

Keith Smith, 64, from Chinnor, has been donating blood for 20 years.

The retired sales manager said: “I started because they brought a mobile clinic to the place where I work which made it convenient to give.

“Prior to that I had a guilty conscience because my mother-in-law had given all her life but was unable to continue due to anaemia.

“I have seen a lot of accidents and I lost a good friend two years ago who died of liver cancer. She received platelets for some months which made her life much more comfortable, so I have personal experience of people needing blood.”

Colin Cook, Oxford city councillor for Jericho and Osney, has been giving blood since he was 18 and, now aged 48, has racked up 78 donations. He said: “It is a small prick but it is a sensible thing to do and you never know when you might need it yourself. It was a sense of public spiritedness that made me do it.”

Each 470ml donation, or unit, can save three adult lives or seven babies.

Elise Sykes, 27, owes her life to the 23 people whose blood was used to save her when she suffered complications after giving birth to her son, Harrison, 11 months, by emergency caesarean.

Mrs Sykes, whose husband, Adam, is an orthopaedic surgeon at the John Radcliffe Hospital, said: “My biggest regret is never giving blood because I was needlephobic.

“It’s a bit harsh, but I would say to anyone who feels the same, get over it, don’t leave it until it’s too late.

“Something as simple as childbirth could mean you need a lot of blood.”

As someone who has received a transfusion, she cannot now give blood herself. She said:“It takes an amazing person to give blood to a stranger, just saying thank you isn’t enough.”

Blood donation clinics are held regularly across Oxfordshire and the John Radcliffe has a weekday walk-in centre where you can give blood without booking in.