Urgent appeal for O neg and B neg donors as increase in demand for certain blood types leads to fall in stocks

NHS Blood and Transplant needs donors with O negative and B negative blood to donate now as stocks are low due to a bank holiday drop off in donations and an increase in demand for certain blood types.

30 May 2018

NHS Blood and Transplant needs donors with O negative and B negative blood to donate now as stocks are low due to a bank holiday drop off in donations and an increase in demand for certain blood types.

The lack of O negative and B negative donors giving blood in the run up to the bank holiday has meant that stocks of these groups could fall below 2 days. So, NHS Blood and Transplant is asking anyone who knows they have these blood types but may have not donated before to give blood now.

However, there is a longer-term problem putting real pressure on these blood groups, particularly stocks of O negative.

O negative is increasingly being used as an emergency substitute for Ro blood because we don’t have enough Ro blood to meet demand*. This rare subtype is more common in black people, but most people don’t know they have this subtype until they donate and there is a huge shortage of Ro blood donors.

Currently, there are 15,000 people living with Sickle Cell in the UK, and over 300 new babies born each year with the condition. The urgent need for O negative and B negative is driven by changes in how sickle cell is treated which has significantly driven up demand and we are struggling to match this.

There is currently an urgent appeal for more people from the black community to give blood, as NHS Blood and Transplant needs at least 40,000 new black donors to help these patients. Over 7,000 have come forward since our appeal last June, but more are needed to help ease the pressure on blood stocks and make sure people in need receive the best possible blood match.

O negative is also the ‘universal’ blood group and is often used when a patient’s blood type is not known, like in emergency situations.

B negative stocks are low also because many patients with serious blood disorders, like sickle cell, need B negative blood. Only 2% of donors are B negative and it is a blood group more common in black people.

O negative and B negative donors can walk in and donate at our permanent donor centres (except Plymouth, Bradford, London West End and Newcastle), without the need to make an appointment or can call 0300 123 23 23 to ask for a priority appointment at one of our community blood sessions.

Mike Stredder, Director of Blood Donation at NHS Blood and Transplant said:

“The overall demand for blood is declining year on year. However, the need for specific blood groups such as Ro blood type and O negative are on the increase.

“We need an additional 4,000 regular O negative donors to those we have now to consistently provide seriously ill patients with the blood they need. If you know you are O negative or B negative and have never donated before, now is the time to make a difference.

“If you are O or B negative, please call us on 0300 123 23 23 to get a priority appointment or walk in to one of our fixed site donor centres to give blood.”

There was a 75% increase in the amount of Ro blood issued to hospitals between 2014 – 2016, with expectations that demand will grow further.  A high proportion of this blood will be used to treat sickle cell disease, the most common and fastest growing genetic disorder in the UK.


Notes to editors

  • NHS Blood and Transplant is a joint England and Wales Special Health Authority. We are responsible for ensuring a safe and efficient supply of blood and associated services to the NHS in England. We are also the organ donation organisation for the UK and are responsible for matching and allocating donated organs.
  • We are an essential part of the NHS and take pride in saving and improving lives by making the most of every voluntary donation, from blood and organs to tissues and stem cells.
  • Our work would not be possible without our donors - ordinary people doing extraordinary things by saving and improving the lives of others.
  • To find out more visit: www.nhsbt.nhs.uk
  • Blood donors can search for sessions, book appointments, change/cancel their appointments and change their contact details in real time at blood.co.uk
  • There are apps available for Android, Windows and Apple Smartphone and tablet devices which enable donors to search for sessions based on their location and book and manage appointments.
  • Our donor line - 0300 123 23 23 - is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week with all calls charged at the standard local rate, even from mobile phones
  • NHS Blood and Transplant needs to collect 1.5 million units of blood each year to meet the needs of patients across England. It’s important that we collect the right amount of each blood group at the right time to meet patient needs. 
  • There are four main blood groups – O, A, B and AB. Group O is the most common and therefore the most in demand. A regular supply of blood is vital – red cells last 35 days and platelets only 7 days.
  • The overall demand for blood is falling by 3-4% per year.  This is due to improvements in clinical practice and is a trend that is being seen around the world. The drop in demand for blood is also thanks to our work with hospitals to ensure blood is used appropriately for patients.
  • We need nearly 200,000 new blood donors each year to replace those who no longer donate for reasons such as ill health, pregnancy or foreign travel and to ensure we have the right mix of blood groups to match patient needs in the future
  • Some blood groups, such as O negative (the universal blood group), A negative and B negative are particularly vulnerable to shortfalls. So we want people with those blood groups to donate as regularly as they can.  We also need more black African, black Caribbean, mixed race and South Asian people to become blood donors to reflect the ethnic diversity of patients.
  • Female whole blood donors can give blood every 16 weeks, while male blood donors must wait 12 weeks between donations. Platelets can be donated every 2 weeks.

Become a blood donor

Sign up