NHS plea for Cambridge's universal blood donors

Image credit: National Cancer Institute, Bruce Wetzel, Harry Schaefer

The NHS Blood and Transplant is calling on O-Rh negative donors in Cambridge to come forwards, and donate and reserves start to deplete. Blood donations are a precious commodity in our modern day NHS hospitals. Their uses from acute cases in A&E to life saving transfusions and operations. But despite their invaluable worth, only 4% of Adults are blood donors. 

Blood donations are matched up according to the ‘type’ of blood we have, which is determined by presence or lack (in the case of O) of glycolipids we have on our cells giving us the A, B, AB or O genotypes. But the natural antibodies of our body, trying to prevent foreign matter including bacteria staying in our bodies, unwittingly restrict what type of blood we can take. For example a person of A genotype has B-antibodies (and vice versa) in their blood and hence would react to a blood transfusion to both B blood and AB. This system produces the ‘universal acceptor’ AB, who can take blood from any type without reaction, and the ‘universal donor’ the null O, who can give blood to any other type. Added to this is the complexity of another rbc marker, known as rhesus factor (Rh) which can be positive (i.e. present on rbc surfaces) or negative (lacking). Rh-negative individuals can donate to both Rh-positive and Rh-negative patients, but due to the presence of Rh-antibodies can only accept Rh-negative blood.

Hence O-Rh negative is the most sought after blood type as it meets the requirements of both blood typing and Rh factor interactions to be the “universal donor”. Due to it’s importance 12% of blood used by hospitals is O-Rh negative, and can be used in times when there is little time to find the right ‘match’, for example in emergency surgery. As such O-Rh negative blood is required to be kept in stocks, and NHS Blood and Transplant are urging those with O-Rh negative blood to come forward to donate blood. Currently only 10% of Cambridge’s 2,250 donors represent the O-Rh negative population.

Dominic Sutherland, Deputy Regional Marketing Manager from NHS Blood and Transplant said: “Stocks of O Rh negative are lower than we would like them to be and in the run up to Christmas when donating often falls off people’s to-do lists, it’s even more important that we collect enough ‘universal’ blood. We are appealing to blood donors in Cambridge with this blood type to call us now on 03001 232323 to make an appointment to donate. We’re also asking donors of other blood groups who have an appointment coming up to keep it.”


To find out more on donating blood, as an O-Rh negative donor or as any other type please visit www.blood.co.uk.To register or make an appointment visit online or call 03001 232323, the donor line is available 24hours and 7days a week. 

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