NHS hospitals given fresh warning over ‘vulnerable’ blood stocks

Exclusive: Omicron wave hit blood donations over Christmas forcing regulator to issue fresh warning to hospitals

Rebecca Thomas
Health Correspondent
Wednesday 19 January 2022 09:12
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<p>Omicron wave has hampered blood donations </p>

Omicron wave has hampered blood donations

Hospitals in England have been sent a fresh warning over national blood stocks and urgently need donations of a rare blood type, The Independent has learnt.

NHS laboratories have been asked to reduce any stock holds of O-negative blood and told to ensure they have emergency plans in place should operations need to be cancelled, according to NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT).

In a “pre-action” letter, seen by The Independent, NHSBT said: “The impact of Omicron on donors and our staffing continues to challenge donation activity whilst demand from hospitals has not diminished.

“We are doing all we can to encourage donors to attend and to provide additional opportunities to donate but need your help to ensure we can maintain an uninterrupted supply.”

The regulator said it was not yet advising hospitals to cancel or delay surgeries but to ensure they have emergency blood management plans that “can be convened quickly if needed”. The letter, sent on 12 January, added that it may need to declare an “amber alert” if the situation does not improve.

Hospitals have been told not to hold back their own stock to help ease national levels.

They were also asked to report daily blood-stock levels to the regulator. Last week the provider had just 2.8 days of stock for O-negative and has since increased this to 3.5 days but says it aims to always have 6 days.

While donations usually drop during Christmas, high rates of donor and staff absences have prevented the regulator from recovering its blood stocks.

The news comes after The Independent revealed NHSBT had declared a critical incident in November this year.

An NHSBT spokesperson said: “While our service remains as normal and hospitals continue to get the blood they need, O-negative blood stocks are low, and it is crucial that we collect more as soon as possible to avoid stocks dropping any further. Covid-19 alongside the usual winter pressures are making collection especially challenging right now.

“In line with procedures we have asked hospital transfusion teams to review their blood-stock plans, so they are prepared should O-negative stocks drop further. Right now, we are prioritising appointments for existing O-negative donors and urge those who are able to donate to help the NHS to improve stocks by booking an appointment.”

NHS Blood and Transplant is calling for people to donate here.

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