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.
Around 700 new Black blood donors are now needed in the East Midlands this year.
NHS Blood and Transplant is this week launching a new campaign titled ‘Not Family, But Blood’ to recruit more donors of Black heritage.
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 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.
The rising demand is driven by increasing patient numbers, as people live for longer, and greater use of complete blood transfusions – known as red cell exchanges – due to improved patient outcomes.
Demand for blood to treat sickle cell has risen by 52 percent over the past five years and is projected to continue to rise.
Currently, NHS Blood and Transplant 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.
Dr Rekha Anand, NHSBT Consultant Haematologist, who works closely with Black and Asian donors, 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 East Midlands to become regular donors. Giving blood is easy, quick and safe - and you will save and improve lives.”
There are two blood donation sessions coming up in the Louth area – on Thursday December 22 at the Magna Vitae Leisure Centre and Thursday January 26 at the Brakenborough Hotel.
To make an appointment, or to find out if you can give blood, visit at www.blood.co.uk