NHS appeals to people to make 2023 the year they save lives

Four in five people in the West Midlands who registered with Give Blood in 2022 are yet to donate with more appointments now available for first time donors.

NHS Blood and Transplant is urging anyone considering becoming a blood donor to make 2023 the year they save lives, as new figures reveal around 235,000 people who signed up to give blood last year are yet to make their first donation.

During 2022 more than 26,200 people registered with Give Blood in the West Midlands but only around 7,300 of them have taken the next step and attended an appointment – meaning around four in five are yet to do so.

The first ever amber alert on blood stocks shortages during October sparked a huge response from the public wanting to help and led to 5,694 people in the West Midlands registering over the four weeks. Only one in five has donated so far. However, at that time there were limited appointments available for first-time donors because of staffing issues and the need to prioritise existing donors.

People who registered during 2022 may have found it more difficult than in recent years to make their first appointment as the NHS experienced a challenging year with low blood stocks. Existing donors are prioritised at these times as their blood type is known and they are more likely to complete a successful donation, which means appointments for first time donors are reduced.

Blood stocks have since stabilised and there are now more slots available for new donors. NHS Blood and Transplant is urging new registrants who have not yet donated to take the next step and book an appointment.

There is an urgent need for more donors of Black heritage as they are more likely to have the blood type needed to treat sickle cell patients – the country’s fastest growing genetic blood disorder. The demand for ethnically matched blood for these patients is on the rise and has already doubled in recent years.

Permanent donor centres in towns and cities generally have greater availability and longer opening hours than mobile sessions that are held in community venues such as church halls. David Rose, Director of Donor Experience at NHS Blood and Transplant, said:

“We always need new people to join our amazing community of lifesaving blood donors and help meet the needs of patients right now and in the future.

“If you are one of the nearly 19,000 people in the West Midlands who registered last year but are yet to attend an appointment, or you’re thinking about signing up to donate, please make 2023 the year you save lives.

“More slots are now available for first time donors but if you can’t find an immediate appointment, don’t worry. Please book for further in the future as we need lifesavers every day. It doesn’t matter if it’s months or weeks ahead – every donation counts. Giving blood is quick and easy, and you will feel amazing afterwards.”

The call comes as NHS Blood and Transplant launches the second phase of its first ever mass home blood type testing campaign to help identify 5,000 individuals with the critical O negative blood. O negative blood is the universal blood type that can be given to any patient in an emergency or where their blood type isn’t known.

The campaign is part of a trial by the NHS to use home test kits on a large-scale to identify people with a certain blood type and book them on to priority appointments, and is one way in which new donors can fast-track to book their first appointment if they have this blood type. This is part of an ongoing focus by the NHS to collect enough of the right blood types, instead of collecting as much blood as possible.

Over the next six weeks 36,000 home testing kits will be sent to people who have recently registered but have not yet made an appointment. Those found to have O negative blood will be offered priority appointments. If needed, the search will widen out and kits will be posted to up to 100,000 people registered with Give Blood over the coming months, until enough people with O negative blood are identified and booked on to donate.

People who register but don’t book an appointment are contacted by phone and email with opportunities to donate in their area to encourage them to make their first donation.

From the 29,000 kits sent out last autumn, 715 people who responded were O negative and two in five has either gone on to complete a donation or has an upcoming appointment to donate.

Last summer NHS Blood and Transplant announced a five year strategy to recruit one million new donors of all blood types to ensure better matched blood for patients in the future and reduce health inequalities.

Blood is needed to help the NHS treat patients with cancer, blood disorders and those suffering medical trauma or undergoing surgery, and O negative blood is mostly used for emergency care. Each donation can save or improve up to three lives.


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