Ismael Gutiérrez, managing director of the Blood and Tissue Bank Trust of the Balearics Islands.


Blood stocks in the Balearics are at a critical level, says the new managing director of the Blood and Tissue Bank Trust of the Balearic Islands, Ismael Gutiérrez Fernández. Ismael, a lawyer by profession, took over his new post a month and a half ago, having lived and worked in London for over two years.

"I was a civil servant working for the energy group Ofgem and both myself and my fiancé loved London. I am a real Anglophile but when it came to thinking about the future, family and education, we decided it would be better to move back here to Majorca, but I miss London. Always will. We had great jobs, a wonderful time."

Now, he is having to channel his energy into a new challenge and that is building up the Balearics’ blood bank, and one thing he is keen to make clear is that there is not a blanket ban on Britons giving blood.

"I think there is a great deal of confusion and it has yet to have been cleared up. Yes, an international ban was introduced in 2001 because of the mad cow outbreak. But that ban only applies to anyone, British or not, who lived on British soil for more than a year between 1980 and 1996. And obviously anyone born after 1996 is clear to give blood, as are people from Ireland. So anyone here, whatever their nationality, who spent less than a year on British soil between those dates can give blood and we wish they would.

"Along with all autonomous regions, we should have a bank of some 1,000 units of bags of blood. 750 we consider a ‘safe’ level but at the moment we have 450, which is considered critical. There has been a sharp drop off over the past few weeks. Ideally, we would be collecting around 200 bangs or units per day.

"The trouble is that the summer season is here and more people are in seasonal employment, so they don’t have the time to give blood. People are away on holiday, others find it too hot and can’t be bothered and also, and this is very worrying, young people are not coming forward to donate either. So these are hurdles we are working hard at getting over.

"And we would also like to reach out to the foreign community and encourage more foreign residents to come forward and give blood. The three largest groups of foreigners giving blood are from Argentina, Morocco and Germany. The average age of a blood donor is over 40 and the average age of someone giving blood for the first time is 33. Donors between ages of 18 and 25 account for just nine per cent. And that is why we’ve launched a campaign called Generció D to increase awareness among young people and to encourage them to give blood.

"We have mobile units constantly touring the region and all of the hospitals have blood donation sessions on set days. This information can be accessed on our website. Most of the blood, some 60 per cent, is being used for the treatment of cancer and long-term patients but obviously, in the event of a major incident, blood will be needed. Fortunately, all the regions manage their blood stocks well and stocks can be transferred if needed, but then that leaves a shortage where the blood has come from, so it’s an ongoing circle. I think that the only blood bank in Spain which is at near maximum level is in Madrid.

"And we need more people coming forward who have 0- type blood because that can be used universally. It is rare but it can be given to any patient where as 0+ and A+, which are the most common, have to have a match. It’s such a quick and easy procedure. The process of actually giving blood takes five to ten minutes so if people can, we believe they should, there’s no risk involved what so ever."

Ismael may have only been in the post for some six weeks but he has got straight down to work.

"As a lawyer, I always worked in public rights and I’ve always had a passion for management in the public sector, so when I saw the position become available I decided it could be the one for me. I’ve been a blood donor since I was 18. We’re a great team, extremely professional and very dedicated to the cause, so much so that many suffer when they see the blood bank reach such low levels.

"After all, we’re working to try and help save people’s lives, and to do that we need the help of the general public. There is a lot of work to do, it’s a big challenge but I’m prepared to take it on. At the moment there are 140 people working for the foundation - at the headquarters, with the mobile units and in Ibiza and Minorca."

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