£600,000 To Tackle Critical Shortage Of Donors Amongst BME Communitites

New funding has just been announced as part of the Government’s commitment to tackle health inequalities. The funding aims to address the shortage of organs for those waiting for a transplant from all BAME backgrounds, and the lack of Black blood donors whose blood is used to treat conditions like Sickle Cell Disease.

The Community Investment Scheme run by NHS Blood and Transplant, responsible for blood and organ donation, will fund community and/or faith/belief organisations to drive awareness, understanding and behaviour change.

Having previously focussed solely on promoting organ donation after death, in the scheme’s third year NHS Blood and Transplant is now looking for applications that will engage diverse communities on the issue of blood donation too.

The funding available through the scheme has increased to reflect this, with an estimated total of £600,000 available.

Organisations will be able to apply for one of three funding bands:

  • Funds up to £2,499
  • Funds between £2,500 – £10,000.
  • Funds between £10,001 and £20,000

This year, as part of the scheme, NHS Blood and Transplant are also launching the Community Engagement Leads initiative. This will work in conjunction with key community-based organisations across England to create grassroot networks to promote organ and blood donation.

Since its launch in 2018, the Community Investment Scheme has supported 43 organisations to deliver 50 community-led projects. With around 4,000 people engaging in conversation or taking away a leaflet or information and 8,000 attended a talk or workshop.

Now more than ever, the impact of Covid-19 is making innovative approaches to community engagement essential. NHS Blood and Transplant are requesting that applicants demonstrate consideration of the current uncertainty around COVID-19. Applications focused on a digital delivery are encouraged, while digital contingency planning will be expected for any face to face work.

Health Minister Lord Bethell said:

“This new funding will help organisations carry out vital work within local BAME communities by opening up and informing the conversation about organ and blood donation.

“Often a person’s best donor match will share their ethnicity, but too many donation opportunities are missed because families aren’t discussing the subject.

“We know when it comes to organ donation, these conversations save lives, which is why it is so important to help individuals make an informed decision and talk about it with their families.”

Figures from NHS Blood and Transplant’s annual report into organ donation and transplantation in Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities, reveal promising increases in consent rates for Black, Asian and minority ethnic donors and an increase in those from BAME backgrounds being eligible to donate. (2) However, there remains a stark imbalance between the numbers of Black, Asian and minority ethnic people donating and those patients in need of a lifesaving transplant.

As of October 2020 1,408 people from BAME backgrounds are actively waiting for a transplant, almost one third of all patients waiting in total. Family refusal continues to be the biggest obstacle to organ donation amongst the communities. Around half as many BAME families approached about organ donation agree to go ahead, this is significantly lower compared to families from other backgrounds.

There is hope that the introduction of Max and Keira’s Law – the new law relating to organ and tissue donation in England – which came into effect on 20th May, will lead to an increase in the number of donors of all ethnicities. However, families will still be consulted before donation goes ahead so it remains essential to raise awareness, challenge misinformation and encourage those supportive of organ donation to talk with their families.

Additionally, this Black History Month NHS Blood and Transplant is opening up the scheme to fund organisations to encourage blood donation, specifically amongst people from Black African and/or Black Caribbean communities.

Sickle Cell Disease is currently the fastest growing genetic disorder in both the UK and the wider world. People from Black African or Black Caribbean backgrounds are most likely to have this condition which can often require frequent, life-saving blood transfusions. For those reliant on regular transfusions, it is essential that they receive blood matched as closely as possible to their own. A match is most likely to come from a donor of the same ethnicity, yet currently only 1.5% of donors in England are Black.

NHS Blood and Transplant is keen to work with trusted voices and organisations who can help address barriers, normalise blood donation and drive behaviour change within Black African and Black Caribbean communities.

Altaf Kazi, Head of Faith and Belief Engagement at NHS Blood and Transplant, said:

“We are delighted that this year we saw an increase in people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds saying yes to organ donation when approached. This shows great progress, however overall BAME donor numbers are still very low. With people from BAME communities more likely to need a transplant, and the best chance of a match often coming from a donor of the same ethnicity, there is still a need for greater awareness and understanding. 

“Through the Community Investment Scheme we have seen first-hand the abilities of trusted individuals and community groups to prompt conversation, tackle misinformation, educate and offer reassurance around organ donation. We are now pleased to be able open up the scheme to encourage blood donation too.

“More and more Black people are donating blood. However, donation levels are still low and we still need more black blood donors to help seriously ill patients. We know that when people understand that they can save lives by donating blood, and that their blood is needed, they are motivated to make that first appointment and go on to become regular blood donors.

“We are asking more people from BAME communities to find out about both blood and organ donation and help us to address the health inequalities that many members of these communities may face. By giving your support you can help save lives.”

More information about the Community Investment Scheme and details of how to apply can be found https://www.nhsbt.nhs.uk/cis/ or by contacting: community.funding@nhsbt.nhs.uk

Applications should be submitted by 5pm on the 2nd of December 2020. Projects will need to be completed by the 1st of October 2022.

The Community Investment Scheme is part of a Government-funded campaign led by NHS Blood and Transplant with support from the National BAME Transplant Alliance (NBTA) to address the urgent need for Black, Asian and minority ethnic donors.

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