A FRIEND of mine went to the doctors for a blood test and afterwards the practice nurse gave him a slip of paper stating it was “Type A.”

“I thought it was a bit strange,” he told me. “It must have been a Type-O…”

Okay, it wasn’t very funny – but it does help to raise the question about how many of us actually know what type of blood we have and why it is so important.

The two facts that everyone knows about blood are that we all have it and no-one can live without it. But, beyond that, for many of us our ignorance knows no bounds.

Which could be part of the reason why our blood transfusion service is almost permanently in a state of under-supply.

This week, the NHS Blood and Transplant chief executive, Ian Trenholm, was in Bradford to launch what has become an annual appeal for people to give blood in the run-up to Christmas.

The district needs more than 1,000 blood donors to come forward to fill its empty appointment slots between now and New Year’s Eve.

It’s a staggering fact that the NHS nationally needs more than 6,000 donations every single day just to keep up with demand.

Something that’s rarely understood is that the NHS aims to have just six days’ worth of stock at any given time.

Significantly, stocks of some blood types often fall well below those levels.

And because red blood cells can only be stored for up to 35 days, there is a constant need to top up supplies.

This time of year, with colds and ’flu rife and many people preoccupied with planning seasonal festivities, the shortage of blood stocks can become acute.

“People are busy, there are lots of colds and bugs about, and the weather can put people off,” Mr Trenholm told the Telegraph & Argus. “However, there is a need for life-saving blood donations 365 days a year.”

Which brings us back to those precious blood types.

Blood demand is unpredictable and it differs with each one. For example, O negative blood is the only one that can be given to anyone regardless of their blood type but it is rare, whereas the others, such as AB positive, for instance, can only be given to patients with AB positive blood.

There is a particular need in the Bradford district for donors with the blood group B positive because it is more often found in black and south Asian minority ethnic communities.

In fact, NHS Blood and Transplant is currently running a national campaign to persuade more members of those communities to come forward.

Since 2006, the Islamic Unity Society (IUS) has been campaigning to promote blood donation throughout the Muslim community.

It was launched in 2006 in the name of Imam Hussain, a persecuted revolutionary leader in Iraq from the 7th century, lauded by the likes of Nelson Mandela and Thomas Carlyle, who fought for equality, freedom of speech and right to live with respect and dignity.

The IUS says: “One of the lessons we learn from Hussain is to be selfless and give from ourselves for the benefit of humanity. We want Muslims to be inspired by Hussain’s legacy too and give blood for the sake of the wider community in 21st century.

“Donating blood, daunting as it may seem, is a simple and highly commendable act.

“Despite its recommendation by Muslim scholars, there seems to be a lack of understanding of its Islamic approval. This campaign set out to break down such misconceptions and, in turn, replace them with increased knowledge, awareness, and enthusiasm towards this gracious, altruistic and hospitable act.”

The campaign’s message has spread nationally and globally and the campaign is now active in more than 25 UK cities, including Bradford.

It helps to illustrate that blood donation is an international problem.

The World Health Organisation says: “Blood connects us all.”

Its annual World Blood Donor Day focuses on thanking blood donors and highlights the “sharing” and “connection” between blood donors and patients.

“We have adopted the slogan ‘Share life, give blood’ to draw attention to the roles that voluntary donation systems play in encouraging people to care for one another and promote community cohesion,” the WHO says.

“We aim to highlight stories of people whose lives have been saved through blood donation, to motivate regular blood donors to continue giving blood, and motivate people in good health who have never given blood to begin doing so, particularly young people.”

Transfusion of blood and blood products helps save millions of lives globally every year. It can help patients suffering from life-threatening conditions live longer, and with a higher quality of life, and it supports complex medical and surgical procedures.

According to hospitals, in 2014, 67 per cent of supplies was used to treat medical conditions including anaemia, cancer and blood disorders; 27 per cent was used in surgery, including cardiac surgery and emergency surgery (a single car accident victim can need as many as 100 units of blood); and six per cent was used to treat blood loss after childbirth.

On average, someone in a UK hospital needs blood every two seconds.

About 112 million units of donated blood are collected across the world every year but only 57 countries get all their national blood supplies from voluntary unpaid blood donations, with less than half of supplies in 71 countries donated voluntarily and the rest coming from families or paid donors.

The WHO wants all countries to obtain all their blood supplies from voluntary, unpaid donors by 2020.

The UK is one of the lucky 57 and Bradford is now better equipped than ever to welcome and encourage volunteers since the opening of its new donor centre at Kenburgh House, Manor Row, earlier this year, although there are sessions and centres across the district.

You can find out more about giving blood, or make an appointment, through the NHS Blood and Transplant website, blood.co.uk, or by phoning 0300 123 2323.

It could be the best present you give this Christmas.