Unison has become the first union to partner with the NHS Blood and Transplant to promote awareness of blood and organ donation.
The aim is to increase the numbers registering to become blood and organ donors from Unison’s 1.3 million members in an agreement with the special health authority.
“We have more than a million members and they can make such a difference to others and literally be life-savers”
As part of the agreement, Unison will promote donation to members at conferences, through its magazines and website, and encourage activists as well as reps to become donor ambassadors.
Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said the three-year partnership represented an historic commitment by the union to save lives.
He also revealed that the agreement between the two organisations held personal significance for him, his life being saved with blood transfusions while undergoing surgery and treatment for cancer.
“The reason I’m still alive is because of the generosity of other people – not just once but twice,” said Mr Prentis.
“It is vital that blood donations are always in line with patient need so patients have the reassurance I had that there is a ready supply when needed – and the country desperately needs more organ donors,” he said.
“We have more than a million members and they can make such a difference to others and literally be life-savers,” he added.
NHS Blood and Transplant teams across England and North Wales collect more than 6,000 units of blood a day.
“I hope that the partnership can help us appeal to a broader range of donors, particular those from black african, black caribbean and asian backgrounds”
However, there has been a sharp drop in the number of new donors over the last decade across the UK, due to longer working hours, a fear of needles and people simply not getting around to it.
Meanwhile, a third of the UK population is signed up to the organ donor register but three people still die every day in need of a transplant.
Ian Trenholm, chief executive of NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “This is an important day for us.”
“We hope that many of the union’s members will sign up as blood donors as well as commit to organ donation by joining the NHS Organ Donor Register and discussing their donation decision with their families,” he said.
He added: “I hope that the partnership can help us appeal to a broader range of donors, particular those from black african, black caribbean and asian backgrounds who are under-represented as both blood and organ donors.”
The partnership will be marked with an event held at Unison centre in London on 9 Monday.