More than 200,000 blood donors are needed in the run-up to Christmas - but last year one in five blood donor appointments was missed over the festive period.
NHS Blood and Transplant is calling for more people across England and North Wales to make time this Christmas to make a blood or platelet donation, as it is a time when stock levels can drop “dramatically”.
“Blood stock levels can drop dramatically over the busy festive period”
Around 210,000 whole blood donations will be needed over the next six weeks to supply hospitals treating patients with cancer and anaemias, after accidents or childbirth complications, and during surgery. Over the festive period 12,500 platelet donations are needed to help treat patients with cancer, serious blood disorders and those who have undergone transplants.
Over the winter months NHS Blood and Transplant particularly needs to ensure supplies of rarer blood groups O Rh Negative, A Rh Negative, B Rh Negative and AB Rh Negative, as these are most vulnerable to shortfall.
It is also important that blood donations represent the country’s diverse population.
Some rare blood groups and some blood disorders are more common among ethnic communities. For certain conditions, for example sickle cell anaemia, it is beneficial for patients to receive blood from the same ethnic background.
While 14% of people living in England and North Wales are black, Asian or minority ethnic, only 4% of active blood donors are from these communities. South Wales is not included in the appeal because it has its own blood service.
This year NHS Blood and Transplant faces extra pressure as Christmas Day and Boxing Day fall ahead of a weekend, raising concerns that fewer donors than usual will get around to making donations during the busy festive period.
Jon Latham, NHS Blood and Transplant assistant director, said: “Blood stock levels can drop dramatically over the busy festive period as Christmas shopping, celebrations and extended public holidays mean giving blood slips off the nation’s to-do lists.
“At this time of year many people want to give something more than material gifts. A blood donation truly is the gift only you can give and with one single donation you can save or improve up to three lives,” he said.
“Don’t worry if you’ve never given blood before - now is a great time to sign up and start giving,” he added.