UK blood supplies dangerously low after early norovirus outbreak keeps donors away
Stocks of O Negative blood – which can be given to people of different blood groups – are in low supplyNon-attendance by donors increased by 50 per cent just before New Year due to winter vomiting bug
17:58 GMT, 3 January 2013
17:59 GMT, 3 January 2013
The NHS has made an urgent appeal for O Negative blood donors after the early norovirus outbreak and the festive period caused a drop in donations.
The National Blood Service (NBS) said it had increased stocks of the blood type before Christmas but high demand meant it was running low.
More than one million people are believed to have been affected by the vomiting bug outbreak, which led several hospitals to close their doors before Christmas in a bid to contain its spread.
An urgent appeal has been made for donors as stocks of O Negative blood are in low supply
An NBS spokesman said: 'Blood stocks can often dip around holiday time as people get distracted and can’t always attend their sessions.
'In addition, the recent outbreak of norovirus has led to a dramatic increase in the number of people correctly cancelling their appointments.
'Non-attendance by O Negative donors increased by 50 per cent just before New Year.'
Donors with O Negative blood make up around seven per cent of the population and are known as the 'universal donor' as their blood can safely be given to patients with a different blood group.
This can prove vital in an emergency situation where there may not be time for an immediate blood group testing to be carried out.
About 100,000 people were struck down with the winter vomiting bug over Christmas according to the latest figures, with the number of confirmed cases 72 per cent higher than this time last year.
The dramatic rise was attributed in part to an early outbreak of the illness which closed dozens of hospital wards as it swept across the country.
1.1 million people are said to have been affected by Norovirus (shown here under a microscope)
During the two weeks up to December 30, there were 29 hospital outbreaks reported, compared with 70 in the previous fortnight, bringing the total for the season to 590.
A total of 3,877 laboratory-confirmed cases of norovirus have now been recorded in England and Wales – up on the 2,255 of last year.
But the Health Protection Agency (HPA) said that for every reported case, an estimated 288 were not flagged up, meaning about 1.12 million people could have contracted the illness this season.
Blood stocks are also needed for patients being treated for diseases like cancer and leukaemia, with anyone aged 17 upward who is in generally good health a potential donor.
Jon Latham, assistant director of marketing for NHS Blood and Transplant, said: 'We would like to urge all O negative donors to walk into their most convenient donor session to give blood to help rebuild stock levels.
'We are always grateful to donors who respond to calls such as this and appreciate that in doing so they do give up some of their precious time.
'Waiting times may vary in the next few days as we try to accommodate all donors.
'Demand for blood never stops and O negative donors can help to ensure healthy blood stocks in the upcoming weeks, by giving blood now and in the next few days.'