Make donating blood your New Year’s resolution.

Help fill appointments left empty at Bristol Donor Centre due to colds and flu.

NHS Blood and Transplant is appealing to people in Bristol to make giving blood to save lives their New Year’s resolution and book an appointment to donate in the next few days and weeks to help ensure hospitals get the blood they need this winter.

The NHS particularly needs O and B negative donors who have an appointment over the next days and weeks to keep them if they are fit and healthy.

The appeal follows a higher than usual number of cancellations by donors due to seasonal illnesses and holiday disruptions, as well as a rise in demand for O negative blood from hospitals. This is affecting the NHS’ ability to collect enough of the right blood types. Supplies of O and B negative blood are under pressure and urgently need to be rebuilt.

Anyone with an upcoming appointment is being asked to stick to it if they are fit and well and any O and B negative blood donors who don’t have a booking are asked to urgently call 0300 303 2096 to find a priority space.

There are almost 1,000 available appointments at Bristol Donor Centre over the next four weeks. If needed the NHS will swap out other appointments to prioritise booking in donors with these two most needed blood types.

More than half of donors who cancelled their appointments over the last seven days cited sickness as the reason in a survey. December saw the highest number of cancelled appointments of winter so far, around 16% more than in November. For every two appointments that went ahead, one more was cancelled at short notice, which the NHS then had to try to refill. There is also concern that public transport travel disruption could be putting some people off booking an appointment to donate, as many of the NHS’ 25 Blood Donor Centres in England are based in city or town centres. 

As well as seasonal illnesses affecting how much blood the NHS can collect, hospitals are ordering more O negative blood than expected. Around 740 more units of O negative blood were issued to hospitals in the past two weeks. This is putting pressure on blood stocks, which is why donors are being asked to stick to their appointment and O and B negative donors to book urgently to help build stocks.  

There are many O negative blood donors who may not have donated in a while – and so the NHS is also urging these people to consider making their New Year’s resolution to book their next appointment now. A recent YouGov survey* found one in five existing blood donors only donate once a year or less. Yet healthy donors are generally eligible to make their next appointment every 12 weeks for men or 16 weeks for women. 

Each donation takes up to an hour and can save or improve up to three lives. The NHS needs 6,000 units of blood each day to ensure patients get the blood they need.

David Rose, Director of Donor Experience at NHS Blood and Transplant said: “Make a New Year’s Resolution to Give Blood and save three lives. Please book an appointment to donate in the next few days and weeks.

“We are seeing higher than usual cancellations by donors due to seasonal illnesses and holiday disruption. If you are fit and well, please keep your appointment to help us build stocks.

“We particularly need O and B negative donors in the next few days and weeks to urgently increase supplies. If you are one of those donors and you don’t have a booking, please call us and we will find you a space. We might need to move the appointments of donors with other blood types to accommodate this, which will be frustrating for them, but it’s a necessary step to ensure that we can keep supplying hospitals with the right type of blood.”

Most town and city centre donor centres have appointments available although most community sessions are full for the next few weeks. Donors are asked to check back again, as there may be an appointment that has been cancelled at short notice. Alternatively, donors are asked to look for an appointment in the future or further afield – blood is needed all year round. 

Although about 8% of the population has O negative blood, it usually accounts for around 13% of hospital requests for red blood cells – though currently hospitals are requesting even more. O negative blood is often called the ‘universal blood type’ because people of any blood type can receive it. This makes it vitally important in an emergency or when a patient’s blood type is unknown. One in seven people have O negative blood, which is why new blood donors are needed to help identify more people with O negative.  

Winter is always a challenging time for blood stocks. Blood stocks in England always reach their annual low point in the first week of January. NHS Blood and Transplant aims to hold above six days of blood stocks at any given time.

  • Bristol Donor Centre is at Southmead Road, Bristol, BS10 5LX 
  • Limited free parking is available for donors outside the donor centre.