Thousands of appointments booked following plea for blood donations

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Wednesday 19th October 2022

More than 10,000 appointments were booked within 24 hours following an urgent plea for blood donations from NHS England. 

NHS England put out the alert on Wednesday 12th October when stocks hit a critical level. Usually, the NHS has a minimum of six days’ worth of blood supplies to use for transfusions and surgical procedures, but stocks are running lower than normal. By the time the NHS sent out the call for donors, levels were predicted to hit two days’ worth.

Within hours of issuing the call for help, the NHS’s Blood and Transplant service was inundated with new donors and people scheduling appointments to give blood. Over 10,000 appointments were booked for the next few weeks within 24 hours and more than 166,000 people visited the blood donor website in a single day. This is a record since the start of the pandemic. More than 7,500 new donors signed up, which is the highest number for two decades. The service is appealing for new donors, but there is currently an amber alert, which is not a universal appeal. The service has appealed for type O blood, which is in particularly high demand. O positive is the most common blood type in the UK and O negative can be given to any patient making it a viable option for emergencies and cases where the blood type of the patient is unknown. 

Since the start of the pandemic in 2020, it has been increasingly difficult to maintain high levels of blood supplies due to poor health and staff shortages and changes in the way people live and work. Research suggests that people are now less likely to visit donation centres in urban areas, which makes it more difficult to encourage blood donation. 

An official for NHS Blood and Transplant described the reaction from the public as “amazing” and said that was a reminder of the “incredible goodwill and spirit” of those keen to come forward and help others in need. For now, the service is managing donations based on patient need and the amber alert will be in place for at least the next four weeks. Individuals who want to book an appointment to give blood may have to wait, but those with type O blood should be able to access priority appointments. Anyone with type O negative can call the service directly for a priority appointment. 

The official added that people who are unable to make an appointment in the near future will soon be able to register their interest to donate at a later date. This will help to maintain sufficient stocks in the future. When blood supplies run low, hospitals may need to adjust and modify services to ensure that patients have access to emergency supplies. Individual hospitals may decide to postpone routine and non-urgent operations, for example. As stocks increase, they can resume normal services safely. 

There are limited appointments available at blood donation centres and this means that some people who have offered to give blood may need to wait. For the next four weeks while the amber alert is in place, those with the blood types that are most in demand will be fast-tracked. Patients who have O negative blood type are strongly encouraged to contact NHS Blood and Transplant’s customer contact centre. Type O negative is sought-after because it can be given to patients with any blood type. It is often known as the universal blood type and is the only blood type that can be given to anyone. This means that it is vitally important when treating patients in an emergency.