Urgent call for people from the African-Caribbean community to join blood donor list

Urgent need for people from the African-Caribbean community to donate blood due to growing rates of sick cell disease.

More people from the African-Caribbean community are urgently needed to donate blood due to growing rates of sickle cell disease.

NHS Blood and Transplant urged more people from the
African-Caribbean community to donate blood. Picture: iStock

NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) launched the appeal today in response to a 75% increase in the amount of Ro blood – a special subtype of blood most commonly found in members of the African-Caribbean community – being issued to hospitals in the past two years to treat patients.

The majority of the blood donations are used to treat sickle cell disease, the most common and fastest-growing genetic disorder in the UK.


Elizabeth Anionwu, who was the first sickle cell nurse specialist in 1979 in the UK, and is now a patron of the Sickle Cell Society, said: ‘One of the most harrowing aspects is that children as young as one, who have sickle cell disease, can have strokes.’

Profesor Anionwu said if people were more aware of how regular blood transfusions can help reduce the chance of further strokes and mental or physical disability, they would be more likely to donate.

She said people of African-Caribbean heritage were more at risk of sickle cell disease due to the countries’ historical connections to malaria.

In the UK around 15,000 people have sickle cell disease, and more than 300 babies are born with it every year.

It can cause extreme pain, life-threatening infections and other complications, such as stroke or loss of vision.

Need for transfusions

Advances in treatment has meant that people with the condition are living longer, but this in turn increases the need for blood transfusions.

NHS BT says to get the best treatment, patients need blood which is closely matched and this is most likely to come from a donor of the same ethnicity.

However, only 1% of UK donors are from the black community.

Donors need to fit and healthy, over 50kg (7 stone 12lb), and aged between 17 and 66.

The appeal coincides with National Blood Week, which runs until Sunday 25 June.

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