Surgery under threat as UK blood supplies plunge

Posted: 5th July 2022

Blood supplies have dropped to worrying levels in Britain, with the NHS forced to recall former staff to run donation centres and donors urged to come forward.

NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) said it had launched critical incident plans and was doing everything it could to avoid having to ask hospitals to delay non-urgent surgery.

The supply problems are being caused by staff shortages who are off work with Covid, which has led to some donors having appointments cancelled.

Cases have risen by 33 per cent in England in the past week according to the government’s coronavirus dashboard, while the Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimates that around 2.3 million people are currently infected in Britain.

NHSBT said it was redeploying staff from other parts of the country to fill the gaps and was increasing calls for new donors to come forward in areas where there were still appointments available.

If supplies do not pick up soon, the NHS will be forced to issue an amber alert, and ask hospitals to only prioritise emergency surgery.

An NHS Blood and Transplant spokesperson said: “Blood stocks have fallen but we are doing everything we can to prevent issuing an amber alert. We are expecting a difficult few months.

“We are experiencing staff shortages at many of our donor centres and mobile teams which has left our operations vulnerable from increases in short-term sickness – this has unfortunately led to some appointments being cancelled.

“To address this we are redeploying staff from elsewhere in NHSBT, using agency staff, and contacting ex-employees. We have also increased our marketing activity to attract donors to give blood in town and city centre donor centres which have good appointment availability.”

NHSBT was close to issuing an amber alert in January as omicron cases rocketed, causing severe staff shortages within the NHS, but supplies eventually stabilised.

Now the health service is also having to contend with trusts attempting to clear the backlog of elective surgery, which is requiring more blood than usual.

The Health Service Journal (HSJ) reported that common type O blood supplies were down to fewer than three days worth. An amber alert would be triggered if it dropped to two days.

It is believed that the situation has not been as serious since 2018 when severe and prolonged storms prevented donation sessions from taking place.

Hospitals in Britain require about 6,000 units of blood each day for patients requiring transfusions during surgical procedures or illnesses such as leukaemia or kidney disease.

Source: Surgery under threat as UK blood supplies plunge (

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