Blood donors urged to tell NHS if they can’t keep their lifesaving appointment before Christmas

20 November 2018

Blood donors are being urged to keep their appointments before Christmas as NHS Blood and Transplant warns missed appointments could hit blood stocks over the critical festive period.

Around one in four appointments to give blood were cancelled by donors at too short notice in the week before Christmas last year, a time when people are busy with celebrations and shopping (1). One in 10 people simply failed to turn up for their appointment altogether.

NHS Blood and Transplant needs people to keep their appointments to avoid an even more serious pre-Christmas slump. This year it fears that the forecast bad weather could keep even more donors away. The Met Office has predicted below average temperatures leading to a greater risk of frost and snow. (2)

NHS Blood and Transplant is urging donors to keep their appointment to give blood in November and December. Donors who need to cancel are being asked to give at least three days’ notice so the slot can be given to someone else.

Permanent donor centres in cities and towns have the best appointment availability. Donors who are unable to find an appointment at their local community venue are being urged to keep checking, as cancellations mean slots can become available at short notice.

A serious drop in donations could affect the supply of blood to the tens of thousands of people in England who will need transfusions over the festive period as treatment for a blood condition or cancer, or due to surgery, childbirth or an accident.

Two children who will need blood over the festive period are Henry Alderson and Heidi Ashmore who have the rare condition Diamond Blackfan anaemia. It means they can’t make their own red blood cells and need transfusions every four weeks to keep them alive.

Henry stands in front of a kitchen cupboardHenry, from Essex, who turns three this week, has had around 40 transfusions since first receiving blood just minutes after he was born. His mum Zoe describes the transfusions as ‘supercharging’ and says they give her little boy a normal life.

Zoe said: “Henry is a cheeky chappie, always on the go, but in the days before his transfusion he turns as pale as a ghost and his energy levels plummet.

“He is now so used to transfusions that he gets excited about going to hospital and happily watches the needle go in. Once the blood works its magic he is full of energy once more.

“Henry’s best chance at a long and healthy life is a bone marrow transplant but for now, we rely on blood donors to keep him alive. His transfusions in November and December will mean he can enjoy Christmas. We are incredibly grateful to everyone who gives blood.”

Since her diagnosis as a toddler, six-year-old Heidi, from Kent, has taken her regular transfusions in her stride, often putting on a party dress when she goes to hospital. Her family see every unit of blood as a gift and take chocolates to their local blood donor session in Faversham to thank donors.Heidi have a blood transfusion

Her mum Georgie said: “Heidi is a delightful child, she is wonderfully engaging and great fun to be around. However, when she’s due a transfusion she becomes increasingly withdrawn and tired and tells us she has run out of blood.

“After each transfusion she sparkles and is able to thrive in all areas of her life. There is genuinely no Christmas gift more important to us than that provided by blood donors.”

Heidi herself said: “It’s really cool that people give blood!”

In addition to urging people to keep appointments, NHS Blood and Transplant still has some unfilled appointments as its permanent blood donor centres in cities and larger towns. The donor centres that currently have large numbers of unfilled appointments are listed below. (3)

Donors with all blood groups are being asked to keep their lifesaving appointment in the run up to and over Christmas, but vulnerable groups like O negative, B negative and A negative are particularly important. (4)

Mike Stredder, Director of Blood Donation for NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “Please keep your appointment to give blood. If you are having difficulties making your appointment, please make sure you contact us. We need to collect blood throughout November and December to build up stocks in time for Christmas.

“Demand for lifesaving blood doesn’t stop for Christmas. But stock levels can drop dramatically if too many donor appointments go missed or unfilled.

“We know that donations slump and missed appointments rise in the middle of December and the cold weather forecast could make the situation worse.

“We need our loyal donors more than ever at this time of year, to make sure hospitals have the blood that seriously ill children and adults will need over Christmas and the new year. Each donation can save up to three lives.”

Existing blood donors are being prioritised for appointments in the run up to and over Christmas so that NHS Blood and Transplant can collect the right amount of blood that patients need at this critical time of year. New donors who have registered but not yet donated are being asked to make an appointment for the new year.

It is quick and easy to make, view and change appointments by calling 0300 123 23 23 or online at

Contact us

For additional information please contact the press office on 01923 367 600 or email

For urgent out of hours enquiries please call: 0117 969 2444

Press release notes

Photos: Henry Alderson, three, and Heidi Ashmore, six, who will both need transfusions over the festive period to enjoy Christmas with their families. 

  1. The worst pre-Christmas period last year was the week commencing December 11. That week, 31,212 people filled donation appointments but 9,069 people cancelled their appointments with less than 72 hours’ notice.
  2. MET Office UK Outlook for Monday 26 Nov 2018 to Monday 10 Dec 2018: ‘Temperatures are likely to be below average overall, with a marked increase in the likelihood and extent of frosts. These colder conditions will be accompanied by an increased chance of snow, particularly for northern hills, during any spells of more unsettled weather’.
  3. The donor centres with available appointments are: Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Cambridge, Edgware, Gloucester, Lancaster, Leicester, Liverpool, Luton, Manchester Norfolk House, Newcastle, Nottingham, Sheffield, Tooting, and NHSBT’s temporary donor centre at the Royal College of Nursing in London’s West End.
  4. O negative is the universal blood donor group. This is often used in emergency situations when a patient’s blood group is unknown. Only 12% of our donors are O negative. B negative is more common in some black and Asian people. They are more prone to blood disorders such as sickle cell anaemia and thalassaemia. Only 2% of our donors are B negative. A negative is a universal donor group for platelets. Platelets are tiny cells that help you stop bleeding. A negative platelet donors are crucial for helping cancer patients and trauma patients.

About us

  • NHS Blood and Transplant is a joint England and Wales Special Health Authority. We provide the blood donation service for England and the organ donation service for the UK. We also provide donated tissues, stem cells and cord blood. We are an essential part of the NHS, saving and improving lives through public donation.
  • It is quick and easy to book an appointment to give blood. Call 0300 123 23 23 or visit
  • NHS Blood and Transplant needs to collect 1.4 million units of blood each year to meet the needs of patients across England.
  • There are four main blood groups – O, A, B and AB. O negative (the universal blood group) and B negative are particularly vulnerable to shortfalls. So, we want people with those blood groups to donate as regularly as they can.
  • The overall demand for blood is falling by 3-4% per year due to improvements in clinical practice and our work with hospitals to ensure blood is used appropriately for patients.
  • We need nearly 210,000 new blood donors each year to replace those who stop donating and to ensure we have the right mix of blood groups to match patient needs in the future.
  • We urgently need 40,000 more black donors as they are more likely to have the blood type needed to treat the increasing number of patients suffering from sickle cell disease.


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