People of Black and mixed Black heritage are urged to donate blood on World Sickle Cell Awareness Day, Saturday 19 June at the Blood Donor Centre in Margaret Street, Fitzrovia.
Sickle cell is treated with blood transfusions and is the fastest growing genetic condition in the UK, with 15,000 existing patients and 300 babies born with sickle cell each year, says the NHS.
“It is vital that Black people understand the growing need from within our own community for ethnically matched blood and that they feel comfortable coming to donate,” says Colin Anderson of NHS Blood and Transplant.
Donors from the Black and mixed Black communities are urgently needed as they are more likely to have Ro, the blood type needed to treat patients suffering from the complications of sickle cell disease.
“Sickle cell mainly affects Black people, and many patients rely on regular blood transfusions to help treat and prevent the painful symptoms and complications. These patients require blood that is more closely matched, and this is most likely to come from a donor of the same ethnicity. There is a rise in black people donating blood, but we urgently need more to become regular donors,” says Anderson.
“Donation is quick and easy. Safety at collection centres is our number one priority, so people need have no worries about that. During the pandemic we have taken extra precautions including spacing donors out, extra cleaning, wearing of masks and temperature checks. Coming out of lockdown measures, we will continue to do what is needed to protect donors and staff,” he said.
Ro blood is ten times more common in Black people. Every month more than 1,300 new Black donors are needed to provide not only essential treatment for sickle cell but also life-saving blood for use in emergencies, childbirth, surgery, treatment of cancer and a range of medical conditions. Each donor can save up to three lives with one donation.
The sessions are part of a nationwide appeal by United by Blood, a coalition comprising social organisations African Caribbean Leukaemia Trust (ACLT), Black Mums Upfront and Cell Fe For Life supported by NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT), in memory of Evan Nathan Smith — a young Black man who had sickle cell disease and died following a sickle cell crisis. The appeal is designed to encourage more Black people to register and become regular blood donors in Evan Nathan’s memory.
As well as giving blood, attendees will be able to pick up a DIY kit to find out their blood group.
Saturday 19 June (World Sickle Cell Awareness Day) London West End Blood Donor Centre, 26 Margaret Street, Fitzrovia, London W1W 8NB. Trained staff representative of the Black community will be involved in sessions. A dedicated phone line — 0300 303 2737 — has been set up to book appointments on these sessions. Alternatively, potential donors can visit https://www.blood.co.uk/news-and-campaigns/campaigns/united-by-blood/ to find out more and book their timed appointment slot.