The NHS is calling for black donors to give blood to help people with sickle cell disease as the demand for donations reaches record levels. About 250 donations are needed every day to help treat the blood disorder in England. But currently only about half of all hospital requests are being met with matched blood, the NHS says.
Sickle cell mostly affects people of African-Caribbean background and ethnically-matched blood gives the best treatment. The disease, which is the fastest-growing genetic condition in the UK, causes red blood cells to distort and become sticky, blocking vessels and restricting oxygen supply, which triggers excruciating pain. Many patients need regular blood transfusions to stay alive.
Five years ago, 150 donations a day were needed. Now that figure is at 250, with the demand projected to keep on rising. NHS Blood and Transplant say this is due to patients living longer and the increased use of complete blood transfusions, which has improved patient outcomes.
About 55% of black people have a Ro blood type, compared to 2% of the wider population.
It is clinically safe for patients to be treated with O negative - the universal blood type - but that can lead to complications in the long term.
“Sickle cell disproportionately affects people from a Black African or Black Caribbean background and these new figures show hospitals need more blood for people with sickle cell disease than ever before,” said NHS England’s director of healthcare inequalities improvement, Dr Bola Owolabi. “I urge anyone from these communities who is able to give blood to step forward and help treat the thousands of people living with this painful hereditary condition.”
NHSBT said “ethnically matched blood provides the best treatment” for the condition. Health officials say rising demand is being driven by increasing patient numbers, patients living longer, and more people receiving “complete blood transfusions”. Currently, the NHS is only able to provide matched blood for just over half of the hospital requests.
The urgent call from the NHS Blood and Transplant service comes as it launches a Black History Month campaign to highlight how black communities have the power to help treat sickle cell and provide life-changing blood donations.
- About 15,000 people in the UK have the disease
- It is inherited from both parents, who pass on a particular gene
- It is possible to carry the gene without having the disease
- Nearly 300 babies are born with it each year in the UK
- A simple blood test will show whether someone has it
- Children with sickle cell are at greater risk of a stroke
- Other symptoms can include serious infections, anaemia and tiredness
Source: Sickle Cell Society / NHS
To register to become a blood donor visit blood.co.uk