THE NHS is making an urgent call for more blood donors of Black heritage as demand for sickle cell treatment rises.
NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) say hospitals in Birmingham are asking for around 60 percent more blood than they did five years ago and now need around 3,000 donations every month to meet demand.
Following this NHSBT have launched a campaign titled ‘Not Family, But Blood’ to recruit the 600 new Black blood donors needed from Birmingham and the surrounding areas this year.
Launched to coincide with Black History Month, the campaign highlights that although the Black community is diverse, one unifying thing is the power to treat sickle cell and provide life changing blood donations.
Sickle cell is more prevalent in people of Black heritage, and ethnically matched blood provides the best treatment, so more Black donors are needed to meet the increasing demand.
The condition causes red blood cells to form into sickle or crescent shapes and become stuck in blood vessels, causing agonising crisis episodes, and serious or even fatal long term complications including organ damage and strokes. Many patients need regular blood transfusions to stay alive.
NHSBT say demand for blood to treat sickle cell has risen by 52 per cent over the past five years and is projected to continue to rise.
Currently, NHSBT is only able to provide matched blood for just over half of the hospital requests – other patients need to be treated with O Negative, the universal blood type.
Being treated with O Negative rather than the correct blood type is clinically safe but could mean, long term, patients are more likely to develop antibodies. This puts them at risk of complications and makes it even harder to find blood they can receive.
There is a blood donor centre in New Street, Birmingham, and mobile blood donation sessions are held across the region.
Dr Rekha Anand, NHSBT consultant haematologist, who is based in Birmingham, said: “Matched blood is vital for sickle cell patients to reduce the risk of serious complications. People from the same ethnic background are more likely to have matching blood.
“There is a rise in Black people donating blood, but we urgently need more black people in the West Midlands to become regular donors. Giving blood is easy, quick and safe – and you will save and improve lives.”
Become a blood donor at www.blood.co.uk.