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Got a question about booking to give blood? Check the answers to these frequently asked questions.
If you’ve never donated before you may not be able to see an available appointment in the next few days. This is sometimes because our stocks are low and we are prioritising regular donors. They are more likely to be able to donate for sure and we already know if they have a blood group which has particularly low stocks.
Up to 25% of appointments can be cancelled at the last minute so please do keep checking online up to the day before the session you want to attend to try to book any appointments that come free.
Appointment availability also varies around the country. Our donation sessions held in community venues such as church halls are often more than 85% full. We usually have more appointments available in most of our permanent donor centres, with only 65% of appointments filled at any one time.
Both are true. The longer-term trend is for hospitals to use less blood. This means we need to collect 3-4% less blood overall each year. However, we still need to collect a huge amount – around 6,000 donations a day – and blood still saves lives.
Nearly 200,000 people stop donating every year for reasons such as poor health or pregnancy and we still need to replace those donors, which means we need nearly 200,000 new donors a year.
In the shorter term, blood can only be stored for 35 days, which means there is a constant need for donations. Stock volume can also be affected by temporary problems such as bad weather.
Please donate if you can, especially if you are a new or regular donor who is O negative, B negative, or if you have the rare blood subtype Ro.
We have closed some sessions over the last few years because the long-term trend is for hospitals to use slightly less blood each year. This is because they are better at knowing when to transfuse patients and also have new techniques such as keyhole surgery.
Hospital blood use is declining by 3-4% a year and this means that sometimes we need to consider reducing the number of blood donation sessions that we hold. It’s important that we do not waste precious donations by receiving too much blood.
In recent years, NHSBT has merged or stopped running sessions in some areas. When we have needed to close a session, we have invited affected donors to donate at an alternative session, but we appreciate that some donors may not be able to travel, and we thank them for the lives they have already saved.
In areas where we have needed to reduce the amount of blood donation sessions we hold, we have tried to make sure we retain the sessions that allow us to receive blood in the way that delivers best value for the NHS. These are usually larger sessions at venues which can accommodate nine donation chairs, in areas with good transport links and travel times for our donation teams, and with a large enough population nearby to ensure we can frequently receive a significant amount of blood.
There are no plans for further session closures as we are now focussed on ensuring we build a donor base that will meet the needs of patients into the future.
We do accept a small amount of walk in donations, but the vast majority of donations are received via booked appointments.
Stocks of some blood groups may be much lower than others, meaning we may need to prioritise donors based on their blood group, so we can make up the shortfall. We’re sorry for any delays caused – we will still need other blood groups and we will try and collect your donation as quickly as we can.
We aim to have 6 days of blood stock at any time.
We may occasionally make an urgent appeal for donors to come forward to make sure we can continue supplying hospitals with the blood patients need, or there is a worry that blood stock levels will fall below 2 days.
Hospitals across England need more than 6,000 blood donations every day to treat patients in emergency situations or with ongoing treatment for things like blood disorders or cancers.
We need blood from all groups, but occasionally we need to make sure stocks of certain blood groups don't fall any further. We prioritise donors based on their blood group, so we can make sure stocks don’t drop to vulnerable levels.
There is always a strong demand for O negative because it is the ‘universal’ blood group and is often used when a patient’s blood type is not known, for example in emergency situations.
Also, 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.
As a proportion, the amount of O negative blood being issued has been increasing year on year, driven particularly over the last couple of years by the demand for Ro blood. We also have spikes at certain times due to hospitals stocking up ahead of specific events like bank holidays, but it is the long-term trend that is causing the challenge.