Global call for blood donors of the future

16 August 2016

Global call for blood donors of the future

  • Blood services around the world join Missing Type campaign to reverse decline in new donors.
  • Survey reveals 30% drop in new donors across 21 countries last year compared to decade ago
  • NHS Blood and Transplant says younger and more diverse blood donor community needed in England
  • Campaign launches 16th August 2016

Every second three people across the world receive a life changing blood transfusion. 1

And every minute, thanks to blood donors, three units of blood are issued to hospitals in England to treat patients.2

But NHS Blood and Transplant is uniting with blood donor organisations across 21 countries to highlight an almost 30% international drop in people becoming blood donors compared to a decade ago. 3

The number of people becoming donors and giving blood for the first time in England decreased by 24.4% in 2015 compared to 2005.

NHS Blood and Transplant – which first held Missing Type in England and North Wales in 2015 – this year brings together 25 blood services from 21 countries in a global campaign to call for new blood donors to ensure blood donation for future generations.

Throughout the campaign As, Bs and Os, the letters of the main blood groups, will disappear in everyday and iconic locations around the globe. And patients from around the world have thanked blood donors in a moving video to highlight that in a world without As, Bs and Os, they would not be here.

Across the Missing Type countries, which cover one billion of the world’s population, there are some differences in the numbers of donors and blood groups most in demand but all share the need for more new donors.

In England, the focus is on a particular need for more young blood donors and more black and Asian donors.

Mike Stredder, Director of Blood Donation at NHS Blood and Transplant, the service that collects, tests and processes blood for hospitals across England, said: “Blood donation is an amazing gift. Transfusions save lives and transform health for millions across the world. Every donation can help or save up to three patients and last year in England alone 900,000 people gave blood - helping up to 2.7 million patients. Whether it is patients receiving treatment for cancer, blood disorders, after accidents or during surgery, or new mums who lost blood in childbirth, blood is an absolutely essential part of modern healthcare.

“Thanks to the generosity of our current donors, hospitals have the blood needed to treat patients and there is not a crisis in blood stocks. Despite overall blood use in hospitals declining, we need more young donors to safeguard blood donation for future generations. And it’s vital the blood donor community reflects the diversity of the population because blood types vary across communities and patients need well-matched blood.

“Don’t worry if you’ve never given blood before and don’t know what blood group you are – you find out shortly after your first donation. What’s important is that you register as a donor and book your first appointment to donate. We particularly need new A negative and O negative donors, and people willing to become dedicated platelet donors.”

A number of high profile brands and organisations are backing the campaign, with Microsoft, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, Boots and Manchester City amongst organisations featuring in a new TV advert that will also be seen across social media. Other major supporters include Lloyds Bank, and Royal Mail, who is issuing a special postmark to support the campaign. The postmark will be applied to millions of items of stamped mail from Tuesday 16 August to Friday 19 August.

NHS Blood and Transplant’s donor recruitment work, including last year’s Missing Type campaign, the introduction of a digital real time booking system, and the use of social media to recruit new donors, have led to people signing up and starting to donate. But new donors are needed every year to replace those who can no longer donate as well as ensure the right mix of blood groups to meet patient needs now and in the future.

Barriers to people becoming blood donors identified by blood services taking part in the Missing Type campaign include:

  • Wider and more exotic travel
  • People having less time to give in an increasingly busy world
  • Lack of awareness of the process
  • Lack of awareness about the need for more diverse blood donors
  • Fear of needles

You can start donating blood across the UK from age 17. But last year in England only around 1 in 10 (11%) of blood donors were aged between 17 and 24, while more than half (54%) were aged 45 and over.4 Younger donors are important to ensure blood donation for future generations.

Around 3.5% of the population in England is black African or black Caribbean, but last year less than 1 in 100 (0.64%) donors were from black communities.

People from black communities are more likely to have conditions such as Sickle Cell Disease, which causes their red blood cells to behave differently. Some people with Sickle Cell Disease require regular transfusions to stay healthy. Some blood groups such as B positive, and rarer sub types such as Ro, are also more common in black communities.

Daniel Nwosu, 19, is one of around 15,000 people in the UK who has Sickle Cell Disease. At just six years old Daniel had a stroke as result of a sickle cell crisis. A year later, another stroke led a brain haemorrhage which left him in a coma for three days.

Daniel said: “My doctors have told me I will need blood transfusions for the rest of my life. Sickle Cell Disease affects me and my family in so many ways. It is always there and many people don’t understand the pain that it can cause. I’m very grateful to all who give blood, but it is vital more people understand the need for black African and Caribbean donors, so patients can get the closely matched blood they need.”

Around two thirds of donated blood in England is used to treat medical conditions such as blood disorders and cancer.

Three year-old George Ferriman has an aggressive blood cancer called Acute Myeloid Leukaemia. He has just finished his fourth round of chemotherapy treatment – and needed 20 red blood cell and platelet transfusions.

Dad Richard said: “I’d never given blood before, not for any reason other that I just never realised the need. I didn’t know that such a simple act could save lives. If it were not for people giving blood and platelets George would not have survived. We have had the wonderful news that George is now in remission. I’ve become a donor and as a family we want to do all we can to raise awareness. We want George to be able to look back on this when he is older and think - look at all the life savers I encouraged to go and donate!”

  •        To sign up as a new donor, visit: or call 0300 123 23 23.
  •        Support the campaign on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram #MissingType.

1 85,000,000 Red Cell Transfusions a year (

2 In 2015 1,887,136 million issues of red cells were made to hospitals by UK blood services

3 Countries joining the Missing Type campaign who provided data to the Missing Type survey 2016:

UK: England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland
Europe: Belgium, Republic of Ireland, Sweden, Switzerland, The Netherlands
Asia: Japan, Republic of Korea, Singapore
Australia/Oceania: Australia, New Zealand
South America: Brazil
North America: Canada, USA, (United Blood Services locations does not incl. American Red Cross, Blood Centres of the Pacific, Inland Northwest or any other member centre)
Africa: South Africa

In a survey for Missing Type in April 2016, participating blood services reported the number of people becoming donors and giving blood for the first time was 1,830,003 in 2005 and 1,324,980 in 2015 – a drop of 27.6% in 2015 compared to 2005. Not all services were able to provide full responses.

Countries joining the Missing Type campaign but which did not provide date for the global insights survey: Hong Kong, Lithuania, Nepal

4 Number of active blood donors (those who have given blood at least once in a year)

In 2015 the 25 blood services joining in the Missing Type campaign provided 14.7 million units of blood to treat patients thanks to the generosity of 8.16 million blood donors – 1.3 million were first time donors.

This includes 1.89 million units of blood provided to hospitals across the UK thanks to around 1.1 million donors giving blood through one of the UK’s blood services (NHS Blood and Transplant, the Welsh Blood Service, Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service and Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service) – around 184,000 gave blood for the first time.

It includes 1.6 million units of blood provided to hospitals in the England thanks to around 900,000 donors – around 154,000 gave blood for the first time.


  • For additional information please contact the NHS Blood and Transplant press office on 01923 367600 or via
  • For out of hours enquiries please call: 0117 969 2444

Notes to editors

  • NHS Blood and Transplant is 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:
  • Blood donors can search for sessions, book appointments, change/cancel their appointments and change their contact details in real time at
  • 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 -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 1.6 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 7days
  • 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 just under 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.