2.38m people with ‘super blood’ asked to donate ahead of the Olympics

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Written by Tim Barnes-Clay

New statistics from NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) announced today reveal a gap between demand and supply of blood type O- during national celebrations and underline an urgent need for O- donors to come forward ahead of the Olympics next month.
The statistics coincide with annual World Blood Donor Day (14th June). The theme this year is heroes. NHSBT is marking the occasion with a special one-off blood donation session at the Tower of London to appeal to this group of blood donor heroes whilst also collecting blood from some Britain’s military heroes, the Beefeaters.

 Around the jubilee celebrations demand for type O- blood was 69% higher than the number of donations being made, mirroring past public holidays such as Easter (25% higher demand than donations) and Christmas (29% higher demand than donations).

All blood types are needed to build stocks in advance of an exceptionally busy summer, but there is a particular need for O-donors to prepare for The Olympics. An estimated 1.2 million people and 15,000 athletes are expected to visit London as part of the Olympic Games, whose blood type may not be known, so should they need a transfusion O- blood is likely to be needed. The increased demands on stocks will be compounded by low numbers of donors coming forward in the midst of the disruption and distraction of the celebrations.

Type O- blood, often called the universal blood type, can be transfused into any patient regardless of their own blood type and is used in over a tenth (10.5%) of hospital procedures. Increased demand during holiday periods is often due to health services preparing for treatments over holiday periods including accidents, which may require O- blood to treat patients quickly when their blood group is not known.

Although O- blood is in the highest demand it is also in very limited supply. An estimated 7% of the eligible population (2.38m people) have O- blood and just 139,000 of these are donors, a number that has declined 19% in the last ten years. Their contributions are vital for treatments of other blood groups in emergency situations but also to treat others of their own blood type since they can only be transfused with O- blood.  

The Tower of London, more usually linked with villains and blood-shed than blood donation, twill today play host to a donation session for Tower residents (including Yeoman Warders, better known as Beefeaters) and employees as well as the general public with an emphasis on O- donations including O- donors and case studies helping to raise awareness and recruit new O- donors.

NHS Blood & Transplant spokesperson Jon Latham said: “Without O- blood donors many live saving procedures could be delayed or made more risky for patients and of course we wouldn’t be able to give transfusions to people with O- at all since they can only take blood of their own type. We’re appealing to this elite group of blood donors to help us prepare for the unprecedented demand expected around the Olympics to make sure our health services have the essential stocks they need. And if you don’t know whether you are O- or not, donating blood is the perfect way to find out!”

People of all blood types who would like to help with the national stock build appeal are encouraged to act now before the Olympics and make an appointment at or by calling 0300 123 23 23.