There is a huge demand for the blood because it’s universal and can be given to anyone in an emergency, regardless of their own type.
But it’s also the rarest, meaning demand far outstrips supply.
NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) said hospitals need an increasing amount of O negative blood which can be used for car crash victims and newborn or premature babies.
O negative now makes up 14 per cent of all the blood issued to hospitals, the highest ever level, despite only eight per cent of the population having it naturally.
Sebastian Cockerill, six, met 43-year-old Andrew Spence, from Corby in Northamptonshire, whose blood saved Seb’s life when he was born premature. The two embraced when they met
Seb, from Sudbury in Suffolk, was born 15 weeks early and needed several blood transfusions
‘We need an ever growing share of our blood donors to be O negative to meet hospital demand,’ said Mike Stredder, director of blood donation at NHSBT.
‘If you are O negative, please talk to your family and share your story. There’s a one in three chance they are O negative too.
‘O negative is essential for saving people’s lives in emergencies because the red blood cells can be given to almost anyone.’
NHSBT said the long-term demand for O negative is mainly being driven by the need to substitute O negative for a rare blood type called Ro.
Ro, a subtype blood group, is more common in people of black heritage, and only two per cent of regular blood donors have Ro.
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT BLOOD GROUPS AND HOW CAN YOU FIND OUT YOURS?
There are four main blood groups – A, B, AB and O. Your blood group is determined by the genes you inherit from your parents.
Each group can be either RhD positive or RhD negative, which means in total there are eight main blood groups.
The percentage of donors with each blood type are:
- O positive: 35%
- O negative: 13%
- A positive: 30%
- A negative: 8%
- B positive: 8%
- B negative: 2%
- AB positive: 2%
- AB negative: 1%
The only way to find out your blood type is to donate blood.
Most people are able to give blood, but only 4 per cent actually do.
There is a rise in the number of people with sickle cell disease with Ro blood who need regular transfusions.
NHSBT is also appealing for new male donors after revealing the number of men giving their blood in England has fallen by around a quarter over the last five years.
It said men’s blood, which is higher in iron than women’s, is able to help more patients with each donation.
Sebastian Cockerill, now aged six, was born by emergency Caesarean 15 weeks early at 25 weeks into pregnancy.
His bone marrow was not mature enough to produce enough red blood cells to keep him alive.
He received several lifesaving blood transfusions at Luton and Dunstable University Hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit including one with O negative blood from 43-year-old Andrew Spence, from Corby in Northamptonshire.
Seb and mother Helen, 41, from Sudbury in Suffolk, have now met Mr Spence.
Seb gave him a big hug and presented him with a card that said: ‘To Andrew, thank you for letting me have some of your blood.’
Hospitals are urging people with O negative blood to check with their family if they have the same type as the supply is failing to meet demand. O negative can be used on newborn or premature babies. Pictured, Helen Cockerill with Seb when he was born premature
Mrs Cockerill, pictured with Seb and Mr Spence when they met, said: ‘I don’t think people understand how important O negative blood is. Family members of people who are O negative – please go out and get tested’
Seb said: ‘The blood was in Andrew’s veins and it’s gone into my veins. People should go and donate blood and save lives like Andrew did to me.’
Mr Spence said: ‘The day was fantastic – what an amazing, emotional experience. Seb and his mum Helen were wonderful. He truly is a remarkable young man.’
Mrs Cockerill said: ‘Seb was absolutely thrilled to meet Andrew and he has asked a couple of times now when we will see him again.
‘Seb would not have survived without Andrew and the other donors.
‘He has completed year one of school. He loves Lego and spending lots of time playing with his friends and cousins.
‘It is so amazing to see after such a frightening start to his life.’
She added: ‘I don’t think people understand how important O negative blood is. Family members of people who are O negative – please go out and get tested.’
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU DONATE BLOOD?
Every day hospitals in the UK need a staggering 6,000 blood donations.
In order to meet this demand, an additional 190,000 new donors are needed every year.
At this time of year, hospitals are even more in need of donors as they face a ‘Christmas slump’, as people cancel appointments.
Figures show almost half of blood donors are over the age of 45 and 81 per cent of 18-24 year olds have never given blood.
A regular supply of all blood groups and types is needed.
Before you give blood
If you would like to donate blood, you can register online or call 0300 123 23 23.
When you log into your account, you are able to find an appointment.
How you donate blood
When you are comfortable in the chair, a nurse will put a cuff on your arm to maintain a small amount of pressure during donation (this does not measure blood pressure).
They then examine your arm to find a suitable vein and clean it with an antiseptic sponge.
A needle will be inserted into your arm which will collect your blood into a blood bag with your unique donor number.
You should not feel any discomfort or pain. If you do, tell a member of staff.
A scale weighs the blood and stops when you have donated 470ml (or just under a pint). This usually takes between 5-10 minutes.
The needle will be removed and a sterile dressing applied to your arm.
Your donation is transported to one of our blood centres where it is tested and processed before being issued to hospitals.