Influential Black leaders are calling for more blood donations from those of Black heritage.
Dame Sharon White, Chair of the John Lewis partnership and number one on the Powerlist 2023, Lord Simon Woolley, founder of Operation Black Vote and Netflix’s Vice President for UK Content Anne Mensah, have launched a campaign to raise awareness of the need.
Latest NHS Blood and Transplant data shows that only 1% of active donors in the country are Black. More are urgently needed to meet increasing demand.
Diseases like sickle cell are more prevalent in Black people, and ethnically-matched blood provides the best treatment.
Dame Sharon kicked off the campaign by giving blood at a new NHS Donor Centre in east London, telling Sky News: “I’ve got a sickle cell trait in my family, but we were very lucky we have not had the full-blown condition. Anything I can do to encourage others to give blood is fantastic.
Dame Sharon, who hasn’t given blood for two decades, said it felt great to give back to her community: “It’s just such a small thing to do that can have an amazing impact on those in need. It’s nice to feel that you can give just a little bit back so the community.
“By increasing the number of Black heritage donors we can go a long way to ensuring that all patients across England receive the best matched blood.”
‘Not a lot of Black people are donating’
Over 55% of Black people in the UK have the Ro subtype needed by sickle cell patients compared with 2% of the general population, and every day 250 donations are needed to treat sickle cell, the fastest growing genetic condition in the UK – compared with 150 a day five years ago.
Siliana Coelho, 24, whose video of a sickle cell crisis went viral, told Sky News blood transfusions saved her life.
“I felt like I couldn’t breathe, I felt like my chest was closing up, I felt like my back was on fire. My whole body was hurting.
“Blood transfusions have saved my life multiple times.”
Siliana needs blood transfusions every six weeks. Each time, she is given blood from up to nine different individuals, and said she constantly worries about blood stocks, “because not a lot of Black people are donating”.
First-time donor Lord Woolley told Sky News he is happy to donate even if he is a little scared of the needle.
“I think most people are afraid of needles, particularly the big ones. But I know this is for a great cause.
“Giving blood is a simple, but essential act of kindness that can save lives. It is vital that more Black people are aware of the importance of giving blood and feel confident to do so.”