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Ebony Dunkley: Black blood donors urgently needed to help treat sickle cell disease

NHS Blood and Transplant is calling for 40,000 new black blood donors to help save the lives of patients with sickle cell disease, the most common and fastest-growing genetic blood disease in the UK.
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NHS Blood and Transplant is calling for 40,000 new black blood donors to help save the lives of patients with sickle cell disease, the most common and fastest-growing genetic blood disease in the UK

Every year in the UK 200,000 new blood donors are needed to maintain life-saving blood supplies and ensure we have the right mix of blood groups to meet the needs of patients.

During National Blood Week in June, NHSBT launched the #Imtherecampaign , calling for 40,000 new black donors to give blood and help save the lives of patients with sickle cell disease across England.

Best treatment

The most common and fastest-growing genetic blood disorder in England and the UK as a whole, sickle cell disease can cause extreme pain, life-threatening infections, and complications such

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NHS Blood and Transplant is calling for 40,000 new black blood donors to help save the lives of patients with sickle cell disease, the most common and fastest-growing genetic blood disease in the UK

black
Picture: iStock

Every year in the UK 200,000 new blood donors are needed to maintain life-saving blood supplies and ensure we have the right mix of blood groups to meet the needs of patients. 

During National Blood Week in June, NHSBT launched the #Imtherecampaign, calling for 40,000 new black donors to give blood and help save the lives of patients with sickle cell disease across England. 

Best treatment

The most common and fastest-growing genetic blood disorder in England and the UK as a whole, sickle cell disease can cause extreme pain, life-threatening infections, and complications such as strokes and loss of vision.

Around 15,000 people have the disease in the UK, and more than 300 babies are born with the condition every year. To get the best treatment, these patients need blood that is closely matched to their own, yet just under 10,000 black people donated blood last year, about 1% of the donor base.

Many patients with sickle cell disease also need blood with a special subtype, RO, which is more common in black donors, with 50% of black donors having this blood type compared with just 2% of white donors.

Lack of understanding

The reluctance of black people to sign up to donate blood is something I am keen to play my part in addressing. Black blood donors are underrepresented for many reasons, including a lack of understanding about the donation process and the RO subtype. The medical language used to explain why we need more black donors can often be difficult to understand. 

Having received a blood transfusion following the birth of my daughter, I cannot donate blood. But what I can do is use my role to stress how essential it is to donate blood. 

By giving blood you can save someone’s life while going about yours. All nurses who are able to do so should lead by example by giving blood themselves, and encourage others to do the same.

Click here to learn more about giving blood and to register as a donor.


ebonyEbony Dunkley is a senior sister at NHS Blood and Transplant 

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