On Monday 2 November, Ian Trenholm, Chief Executive of NHS Blood and Transplant and Orin Lewis Chief Executive of the ACLT (African Caribbean Leukaemia Trust) donated blood together at the West End Donor Centre, London to mark the end of a month long campaign. Both regular blood donors, they choose to donate together to encourage more people from black communities to become blood donors.
Last month NHS Blood and Transplant urged black people to register as blood, organ and stem cell donors and “Be There” for people from their community who need life saving or life enhancing blood transfusions, stem cell transplants and organ transplants.
Black people are currently under represented as blood donors, with less than one percent* of active blood donors coming from Black African, Black Caribbean or mixed race communities. There are currently more people living with Sickle Cell Disease than there are active black and mixed race donors.
Ethnicity can often play an important part in blood transfusions, stem cell transplants and organ transplants. Black donors are more likely to have rare blood and tissue types and black patients are more likely to require these rare types so it is essential that we have more black blood, organ and stem cell donors. Some blood types are more common in black and mixed race communities whilst some rare types are only found within these communities.
Sickle Cell Disease is a genetically inherited blood disorder in which the oxygen carrying the red blood cells are more likely to alter their shape and cause problems such as bone pain. It is most common in the black community. Patients with this condition often require regular blood transfusions. Blood transfusions from donors with a similar ethnic background give the best match and outcomes in the long term.
Ian Trenholm, Chief Executive of NHS Blood and Transplant said:
“It was great donating with Orin on Monday and hearing more about how successful the ACLT has been in the past. However our work together never stops. There are simply not enough black people coming forward to donate blood and this means that patients with Sickle Cell Disease, a condition which is most common in the black community, are not doing as well as they should.
“I am appealing directly to the black community when I say we need more of you to become blood donors and help to save lives. This is an area where ethnicity matters – you get a closer match from someone with the same ethnicity as your own. As a patient, the closer the match the better you do.
“We have to face up to the fact that some of our black patients with Sickle Cell Disease are not getting the matches they need and the healthcare results they deserve. While we are always able to provide suitable blood for patients, we need at least 3,000 more blood donations from black donors compared to last year to help ensure that more patients can receive fully matched blood. Patients with Sickle Cell Disease need regular blood transfusions. For some people this is two or three units every couple of days. A donor can only give one unit of blood every 12-16 weeks, so we need many more blood donors than patients.
“We’re incredibly grateful to those who already donate blood but at the moment we can’t offer the closely matched blood that Sickle Cell patients need. This is simply because not enough people from black and mixed race communities are coming forward to be blood donors. There are no excuses – We need a new generation of life savers.”
Orin Lewis, Chief Executive of the ACLT said:
“I started the ACLT alongside Beverley De’Gale to help people like my son Daniel De’Gale who needed a stem cell transplant when he was battling Leukaemia. At the time there were only around 500 black donors on the stem cell register. Our aim was – and still is – to increase the number of blood, stem cell and organ donors from the black community.
“Daniel was able to get the lifesaving transplant he desperately needed but this came from an African American donor in the US. I would urge everyone but particularly those from the black and mixed race communities to consider blood, stem cell and organ donation.”
During the month long campaign, NHS Blood and Transplant had a number of exciting initiatives to raise awareness and boost donor numbers.
NHS Blood and Transplant worked with community and faith groups such as the ACLT and a social media campaign ran throughout the month.
Additionally NHS Blood and Transplant undertook radio partnerships with Capital Xtra, New Style Radio, Premier Gospel and Colourful FM to promote the need for black blood donors.
You can find out more about the campaign by visiting www.blood.co.uk/bethere.