The NHS Blood and Transplant service this morning triggered an “amber alert” because of a shortage of transfusion stocks in some blood groups.
Hospitals have been asked to put in place management plans to protect blood stocks, including postponing some non-urgent elective surgeries to ensure blood is prioritised for patients who need it most.
Existing donors with O Negative and O Positive blood are being asked to book in at Blood Donor Centres, which have extended their opening hours for greater capacity.
The NHS said today: “Go to blood.co.uk or use the blood app to check appointment availability. Each donation can save or improve up to three lives.”
Decisions will be taken by individual hospitals but the types of surgery that could be postponed are non-urgent, such as hip replacements, which make up around 1per cent of all surgery. These could be swapped for other surgeries such as hernia repairs, gall-bladder removal and eye surgery, which do not require blood to be on standby.
Hospitals will continue to carry out any urgent, emergency or trauma surgery, cancer surgery, transplant surgery and blood transfusions to treat people with long-term conditions.
The amber alert will last initially for four weeks, which should enable blood stocks to be rebuilt.
NHS Blood and Transplant aims to hold about six days of blood stocks. However, levels are currently predicted to fall below two days. Wendy Clark, the interim chief executive of NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “Asking hospitals to limit their use of blood is not a step we take lightly. This is a vital measure to protect patients who need blood the most.
“Patients are our focus. I sincerely apologise to those patients who may see their surgery postponed because of this. With the support of hospitals and the measures we are taking to scale up collection capacity, we hope to be able to build stocks back to a more sustainable footing.
“We cannot do this without our amazing donors. If you are O Positive or O Negative in particular, please make an appointment to give blood as soon as you can. If you already have an appointment, please keep it.”
Blood can only be stored for 35 days, which means there is a constant need for donations – and a need for specific blood types. The NHS Blood and Transplant appointment system carefully balances the supply of blood with the changing demand from patients and hospitals.
NHS Blood and Transplant is working closely with the Department of Health and Social Care, NHS England, the other UK blood services and hospitals to manage the current stock shortage.
- Book appointments and check the latest guidance on covid-19 and giving blood by calling 0300 123 23 23, downloading the NHS Give Blood app, or visiting the website blood.co.uk.
- If you are fit and healthy please make an appointment to donate. If you need to cancel please give at least three days’ notice so the place can be offered to another donor. Give blood and help save or improve up to three lives. All it takes is just one hour of your time.
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