Earlier this week, just as National Blood Week kicked off for 2024, the NHS launched an urgent appeal for O blood-type donors, following a cyber-attack that severely impacted a number of London’s largest hospitals. 

The cyber-attack on pathology firm Synnovis, which took place on June 3, targeted IT systems at major hospitals, including Guy’s and St Thomas’, University College London Hospital, and the Royal London Hospital, causing significant operational challenges. Many of these hospitals rely on digital systems for managing blood supplies, scheduling donations, and coordinating transfusions. 

With these systems compromised, the NHS has faced unprecedented difficulties in maintaining adequate blood stock levels, especially for the universally-needed O blood type.

The attack means affected hospitals can’t match patients’ blood at the same rate as usual, which results in crucial appointments and treatments being delayed.

The critical need for O-blood types

O-blood types, particularly O negative, are in high demand because they are compatible with all other blood types in emergencies. This universality makes O negative blood vital for accident victims, surgical patients, and those with severe medical conditions who may not have time for blood typing. The shortage has reached critical levels, and the NHSBT is urging donors to come forward immediately.

National Blood Week, held from June 10-16 this year, aims to raise awareness about the importance of blood donation and to encourage new and regular donors to contribute. The NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) service emphasises that every donation counts and can save multiple lives.  The current crisis has underscored the importance of these donations even more acutely.

How to donate

Known O-group donors are being asked to make an appointment at town and city donor centres across the country, including London, Bristol, Birmingham, Cambridge, Nottingham, Manchester and Newcastle.

The NHSBT has extended donation hours at blood centres across the country and set up additional mobile donation units. Donors are encouraged to book appointments via the NHSBT website or through the NHS Give Blood app. 

Walk-in donors are also welcome at many locations, though scheduling an appointment is recommended to ensure a smooth donation process.

Supporting the NHS in crisis

As part of National Blood Week, the NHSBT is sharing stories of patients whose lives have been saved by blood donations. These stories serve as powerful reminders of the impact that donors can have. Communities across the UK are also organising local blood drives and events to support the national effort.

RELATED: Explore our newly-launched programme, Advancing Healthcare.

Cybersecurity and healthcare

The cyber attack has highlighted vulnerabilities in the healthcare system’s digital infrastructure, prompting calls for increased investment in cybersecurity to protect vital health services. Research shows that four in five NHS trusts are now facing record levels of cyberattacks.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has become a crucial tool in defending against cyber attacks, providing advanced capabilities for detection, response, and prevention. AI’s ability to process large amounts of data, learn from patterns, and make real-time decisions makes it a powerful force in our defences.

ITN Business’ news-style programme AI & Big Data: Empowering Tomorrow will explore the importance of ensuring responsible practices are in place for AI, and the organisations using AI and big data as a force for good.

Presenter Duncan Golestani will discuss key themes of the industry including:

  • Responsible and ethical use of AI
  • Cybersecurity
  • Health and wellbeing
  • Data monetisation and digital transformation
  • The augmented workforce