A FORMER Keighley man who began giving blood half a century ago is backing calls for donors to come forward.

Tony Hennigan started donating whilst carrying out initial training as a police officer in 1971.

Recently he donated his landmark 750th unit, for which he is to receive an award.

Mr Hennigan spent 30 years in the police force, many of them in his native Keighley, becoming head of CID in the town.

And he says that during his career he witnessed numerous instances when people’s lives were saved thanks to blood donations.

“When I began my police training you weren’t given a choice about donating – you were just instructed to do it!” said Mr Hennigan, 70.

“Over the years in the police service I witnessed at first-hand many occasions when lives were saved or improved by blood transfusions and that motivated me even more to give a helping hand.

“I initially donated blood, then plasma – and now I donate platelets.

“If people want a feelgood factor and to help others during these difficult times, I would urge them to consider donating blood.

“It really does save lives and makes a difference.”

NHS Blood and Transplant has issued an appeal for people who are fit and healthy to keep donating during the pandemic.

The organisation says donation sessions are continuing and that journeys to and from the centres are classed as essential travel.

Bosses say an extra 1,500 units of blood a week are currently needed during the “potentially challenging” winter period.

“Each donation can save or improve up to three lives,” said a spokesman.

“Extra appointments have been added across the country to help meet the current additional need. Permanent donor centres in major towns and cities generally have the best appointment availability.

“Extra safety measures are in place at sessions. Donors are triaged with a temperature check on arrival. Hand gels and hand washing facilities are available, donors are spaced apart and staff are doing extra cleaning. Staff and donors wear face coverings.

“Donors are reminded to follow all relevant Government transport guidance when making their journey to give blood.”

For further information about donating blood, to book an appointment and for the latest guidance related to Covid-19, call 0300 123 23 23, download the NHS Give Blood app or visit blood.co.uk.