Each year the NHS’s Blood and Transplant division publishes figures on donations ahead of the annual event, which falls on June 14 and raises awareness of the need for safe blood around the globe.
This year, NHSBT is calling for more donors to come forward after seeing a drop in donations across England during the coronavirus pandemic.
Figures from NHSBT show 2,415 people gave blood in Bedford in the year to March – an increase on 2,356 the year before, but lower than the year to March 2020, when 2,730 people donated.
The organisation said demand for blood dropped during the pandemic as hospitals suspended routine care – but more donors are now needed to due to a drop in recruitment and hospital activity picking up again.
It has set a target of nearly 175,000 new donors nationally – including 16,005 across the East of England – to make up for the shortfall.
The NHS is particularly short of blood types O negative and B negative, and is encouraging people to get tested to see if they have in-demand, rare blood that could save lives.
Head of blood donation marketing for NHS Blood and Transplant, Alex Cullen, said: “The NHS needs more donors over the next five years of all blood types.
"We especially need more Black African and Black Caribbean donors to help patients with sickle cell.
“A mass public campaign is being held this National Blood Week and throughout June to identify people with most needed blood types. This year we’re encouraging more people to donate and find out their blood type – it’s quick and easy."
Figures for Bedford show 347 new donors gave blood for the first time in the year to March – a rise from 247 the year before, and lower than the year to March 2020, when 394 people donated for the first time.
The number of new people registering to give blood in the area is also below pre-pandemic levels, with 946 people registering in 2021-22, compared to 1,198 in 2019-20.
Across England, the number of blood donors has been declining for some time.
In the year to March, 789,840 people donated – while 878,612 did in the year to March 2016.
Blood donations are taken across the country, in established centres and by NHS roving blood donation teams.
Register to give blood and book an appointment by calling 0300 123 23 23, downloading the GiveBloodNHS app, or visiting here