BLOOD donors are urgently needed in the south west following a higher than usual number of cancellations by regular donors.

An appeal has been launched by the NHS Give Blood organisation in response to a rise in demand for O negative blood supplies.

The high number of cancellations is due to seasonal illness and holidays disruptions alongside the increased demand for O negative blood.

This is affecting the ability to collect enough of the right blood types.

Supplies of O and B negative blood are under pressure and urgently need to be rebuilt, the NHS has warned.

A recent YouGov survey found one in five existing blood donors only donate once a year or less.

More than half of donors who cancelled their appointments over the last seven days cited sickness as the reason in a survey.

December saw the highest number of cancelled appointments of winter so far, around 16 per cent more than in November.

For every two appointments that went ahead, one more was cancelled at short notice, which the NHS then had to try to refill.

Nationally hospitals are ordering more O negative blood than expected which is putting pressure on blood stocks.

A spokesman for NHS Blood and Transplant said winter was always a ‘challenging time’ for blood stocks and that in England - they reach their annual low point in the first week of January.

NHS Blood and Transplant aims to hold above six days of blood stocks at any given time but in October, this figure was down to 3.1 days and levels of O type blood fell to below two days.

Hospitals were told to implement plans to protect their stocks, meaning non-urgent operations requiring blood would have to be postponed to ensure they were prioritised for patients who need them most.

Anyone with an upcoming appointment is being asked to stick to it if they are fit and well and any O and B negative blood donors who don’t have a booking are asked to urgently call 0300 303 2096 to find a priority space.