Universal blood donors are being asked to help fill a sudden shortfall in stocks because of the norovirus outbreak.

The NHS Blood and Transport Team revealed the number of appointments for donations from those with O negative type – known as the universal donor – had halved just before the New Year.

Although hospitals increased their stocks of blood to cover the extended holiday period, there has been a recent high demand for O negative blood to meet patient need, meaning stocks have fallen.

Jon Latham, from NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “We would like to urge all O-donors to walk into their most convenient donor session to give blood to help rebuild stock levels.

"We are always grateful to donors who respond to calls such as this and appreciate that in doing so they do give up some of their precious time."

Donors with blood group O negative are commonly known as the ‘universal donor’ as their blood can be given to patients with a different blood group.

Only about seven per cent of the population have this blood group.

Anyone aged between 17-65, weighing more than 50 kg (7st 12lbs) and in general good health can become a blood donor and there is no upper age limit for donors who have donated in the last two years.

For more information call 0300 123 23 23 or visit blood.co.uk.