NHS declares first ever 'amber alert' amid dwindling blood supplies

NHS is running out of blood: Service declares first ever ‘amber alert’ amid dwindling supplies

  • Trusts will have to start cancelling elective procedures because of blood supply
  • Overall blood stocks in the NHS stand at 3.1 days with O type at below two days
  • O negative blood is the universal blood type which can be given to everyone 

Health chiefs are in crisis mode because the NHS is running out of blood. 

NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) declared its first-ever amber alert status over the dwindling supplies. 

The move means trusts will have to start cancelling elective procedures, like hip replacements, because blood supplies to hospitals cannot be guaranteed.

Current blood stocks stand at around three days, but level of universal blood type O have fallen below two days, officials said.

The current amber alert is also thought to be due to ongoing staffing issues, with more staff needed to work at donor sessions.

Hospitals will be forced to postpone many routine procedures because they have insufficient blood stocks to allow them to go ahead safely

NHS England reported blood shortages earlier during the Covid pandemic, most recently in January.

But stocks have now dropped to even lower levels, forcing the health service’s hand.

Hospital activity and demand for blood dropped whenever Covid rates rose sharply in previous waves.

But now high demand for emergency care and the drive to clear the elective care backlog has driven the need for more blood. 

Former Health Secretary Steve Barclay issued an urgent plea for blood donations in July, warning stocks were at half their normal level. 

An internal letter from NHSBT today said: ‘We are moving to Amber alert status and asking you to implement your Emergency Blood Management Arrangements for red cells at the Amber shortage level.

‘We request that actions are implemented with immediate effect or by Friday 14 October at the latest.

‘Thank you for your ongoing support whilst we have been taking action to avert a move to Amber alert level.

‘Unfortunately, our red cell stock levels are now at a point where we expect to drop below the two-day threshold.’ 

The alert is expected to continue for at least four weeks and will not be removed until stock have reached a ‘sustainable level’, the letter said. 

A spokeswoman for the service said current overall blood stocks in the NHS stand at 3.1 days but levels of O type blood have fallen to below two days.

O negative blood is the universal blood type which can be given to everyone. 

It is vitally important during emergencies and when the blood type of the recipient is unknown.


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