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News: NHS Blood and Transplant makes special appeal to O negative and B negative blood donors

17 March 2014

Eligible blood donors in England and North Wales who are O Rh negative (O negative) and B Rh negative (B negative) are being asked to call now to make an appointment to give blood in the next few days or weeks, to help rebuild stocks of these groups.

NHS Blood and Transplant, the organisation that collects blood from donors across England and North Wales, explained that although the overall requirement for blood from hospitals across England and North Wales has reduced in recent years, the pressure on the different blood groups varies. Stocks of O negative and B negative blood are currently at their lowest level for four years.

As red blood cells have a shelf life of 35 days, NHS Blood and Transplant always aims to ensure there are healthy blood stocks of each blood group and takes action before stocks fall too low by calling for donors to come forward.

Donors with blood group O negative are typically known as the “universal donor” as their blood can be given to patients with a different blood group. This can prove vital in an emergency situation when there may not be time for an immediate blood grouping test to be carried out. Approximately 7% of the population have this blood group, yet 12% of the blood issued to hospitals for patient use is O negative.

B negative blood is in demand because certain ethnic groups are more prone to particular diseases that require blood, such as sickle cell anaemia and thalassemia and a higher proportion of these ethnic groups are Group B. Group B negative blood can be given to B negative or B positive patients. Just 2% of the population are B negative and over the last four weeks hospitals have used 6% more blood of this type than during the same period last year.

Jon Latham, Assistant Director for Marketing at NHS Blood and Transplant, said: 'We constantly monitor donations and blood stocks for all blood groups throughout the year to ensure that we have enough blood to meet the demand of hospitals and patients, and have adequate contingency stocks.

'Stocks of O negative and B negative are lower than we would like them to be and we are asking both O negative and B negative blood donors in particular to call us now on 0300 123 23 23 to make an appointment to donate. We’re also asking donors of those blood groups who have an appointment coming up to keep it. We hope our fantastic donors respond to this appeal and that they bear with us if there are slightly longer waits than normal on session as a result.'

First time donors should be aged between 17-65, weighing at least 50 kg (7 stone 12lbs) and in general good health. There is no upper age limit for donors who have donated in the last two years. 

Ends

For additional information please contact the press office by calling 01923 367600 or emailing pressoffice@nhsbt.nhs.uk

For out of hours enquiries please call: 0117 969 2444

Notes to editors

  • NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) is a joint England and Wales Special Health Authority. Its remit includes the provision of a reliable, efficient supply of blood and associated services to the NHS in England and North Wales. It is also the organ donor organisation for the UK and is responsible for matching and allocating donated organs
  • Donors can search for sessions, change their contact details, book appointments and change/cancel their appointments in real time on www.blood.co.uk
  • There are apps available for Android and Apple Smartphone and tablet devices which enable donors to search for their nearest blood donation session
  • NHSBT’s 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
  • NHSBT collects 1.8 million units of blood each year from over 23,000 blood donation sessions in more than 3,000 venues
  • Hospitals in England and North Wales need around 7,000 units of blood every day to treat patients with a range of health issues
  • Only four per cent of the eligible population are active blood donors
  • A unit of blood is measured as 470mls (or just under a pint)
  • There are four main blood groups – O, A, B and AB. Group O is the most common and therefore the most in demand. Over 95% of the blood collected is processed into its main components – red cells, platelets and plasma. A regular supply of blood is vital – red cells last 35 days and platelets only 7 days
  • 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.