Health officials have issued a rallying call to blood donors after donations dipped by 15 per cent as concerns grow around the coronavirus pandemic.

NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) said that donations slumped over the last week but the impact has been mitigated by the cancellation of a number of pre-planned procedures in the NHS.

But it urged donors to stick to their appointments, adding that extra safety measures are in place in donation centres.

Potential donors are being triaged on arrival to ensure that they are well enough to be around other donors, among other measures.

The national body responsible for blood supply in NHS hospitals said that it will need donors "more than ever" over the coming weeks and months.

Donating blood is something that the public can do to help the health service, it added.

Every day, NHSBT needs to collect 5,000 units of blood to ensure the smooth running of the service, but the number of blood donations collected last week was about one-sixth lower than expected.

As well as a fall in donations, the number of people calling NHSBT's contact centre to ask if their donation session is going ahead went from around 30 a day to around 500 a day.

Dr Gail Miflin, chief medical officer for NHSBT, said: "We can assure people that blood donation sessions are still going ahead. If you are fit and healthy, travel to donate blood is essential for the NHS and seriously ill patients.

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"Extra safety measures are in place. For example, our trained staff will now check everyone on arrival at a session and even stricter cleaning procedures are in place once they are inside.

"Blood donation saves lives and we will need our donors more than ever over the new few weeks and months.

"Please keep your appointment to donate if you can.

"If you do have to cancel your appointment for any reason, then it is important that you let us know so we can offer your slot as soon as possible to another donor.

"Combating the virus will take a huge national effort. Donation is something you can do to help the NHS. It's a reason to go outside and then do something amazing."