Black people in London are being urged to register to give blood after new figures revealed an urgent shortage of black donors in the capital.
NHS Blood and Transplant needs 4,000* new black blood donors at London’s three donor centres to help patients with sickle cell, a condition that mainly affects black people.
People from black African, black Caribbean and mixed heritage backgrounds are more likely to have the rare Ro blood subtype that is vital for sickle cell patients.
Sickle cell is the most common and fastest growing genetic disorder in the UK. Many of the 15,000 people living with the disease rely on frequent blood transfusions to lead normal lives.
Sickle cell can cause extreme pain, life-threatening infections and other complications such as organ failure, stroke or loss of vision. Regular blood transfusions help to prevent or relieve the painful symptoms and complications.
Calvin Campbell, 55, from north London, was diagnosed with sickle cell at just six months old. He receives 10 units of blood every month through an exchange, where his blood is removed and replaced with donated blood.
Calvin has lived with varying degrees of chronic pain all his life and is never pain-free. Before joining the exchange programme, he spent long periods in hospital including a two-year stay for complications which included disabling ulcers to his legs and feet.
The blood exchanges Calvin receives at University College London Hospitals help to prevent or relieve his symptoms and help him to lead a normal life.
Calvin, who sang in the B Positive Choir on ITV’s Britain’s Got Talent to promote blood donation, said: “More and more people are living with sickle cell and we depend on blood to give us our lives back. But there is not enough of the right blood to go round.
“I have had transfusions and exchanges postponed because of a lack of well-matched blood, and I have seen the impact on others of receiving blood that isn’t the ideal match.
“I don’t think enough black people understand the need to give blood or realise that people like me depend on donors of the same ethnic background. When people understand, they are willing to give.”
The rise in sickle cell patients combined with the increased use of blood transfusions to treat the disease has seen demand for Ro blood soar by 80 percent over the last three years.
NHS Blood and Transplant urgently needs 40,000 new black donors to meet this demand and help sickle cell patients across England.
Around 4,000 donors are needed over the next year across London’s three donor centres at West End, Tooting and Edgware to help reach this target.
Around 16 percent of London’s population is black. But black people currently make up only five percent** of the city’s blood donor base.
Please register as a donor and book an appointment to give blood at www.blood.co.uk
London has three dedicated blood donor centres: West End Donor Centre, Margaret Street, W1 8NB; Tooting Donor Centre, 75 Cranmer Terrace, Tooting SW17 0RB; and Edgware Donor Centre, Westgate House, Edgware Community Hospital, Burnt Oak Broadway, Edgware, HA8 0AD