NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) have issued its first-ever amber alert as blood supplies dropped to critically low levels.

Hospitals are being told to implement plans to protect stock, seeing non-urgent operations that require blood to be potentially postponed to ensure stock is prioritised for patients that need it most. 

A spokesperson for NHSBT shared that current overall blood stock levels stand at 3.1 days with levels of O-type blood falling below two days. 

O negative is the universal blood type meaning that it can be given to anyone no matter their blood type. 

Now, existing donors are being asked to book a slot at their local blood donation centre to give blood. 

What is an amber warning and what does it mean?

The news that blood stocks are low and that an amber alert has been set has led to the NHS blood donor website becoming very busy and people being placed in a queue. 

The alert is in part down to ongoing staffing issues, with more staff needing to work at the donor sessions. 

The current action being taken to handle the issue is to move more staff to the front line and open up more appointments, speed up recruitment to fill vacant posts and use agency staff, as well as existing workers.

The alert will initially last four weeks which NHSBT said should help blood stocks be rebuilt. 

With aims to hold more than six days of blood in stock, however, overall levels are currently predicted to fall below two days.

Although blood stocks are very low for blood group O, the other blood groups are expected to enter amber levels in the next few weeks.

Declaring amber for all blood groups makes it easier for hospitals to manage stocks.

Wendy Clark, interim chief executive of NHSBT, said: “With the support of hospitals and the measures we are taking to scale up collection capacity, we hope to be able to build stocks back to a more sustainable footing.

“We cannot do this without our amazing donors. If you are O positive or O negative in particular, please make an appointment to give blood as soon as you can. If you already have an appointment, please keep it.”

How to find blood donation centres near you

If you are a first-time donor and would like to give blood, you can do so via the NHS Blood website. 

Across the UK there are a number of permanent donation centres which are often open during weekdays and weekends. 

Plus donation centres often pop up monthly in local towns so you don't have to travel too far to donate. 

The process takes less than an hour and you even get a free sweet treat at the end of your donation.

You can find your local donation centre via the NHS blood website here.