The NHS has issued an urgent appeal for more black people to donate blood.

A record level of blood donations are needed every day now to treat people with sickle cell disease, NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) said.

Sickle cell disease is particularly common in with African or Caribbean heritage and NHSBT said that, “ethnically matched blood provides the best treatment” for the condition.

It said the demand for care is more than ever before as sickle cell disease is the “fastest growing genetic condition in the UK”.

Over the past five years, the demand for blood to treat sickle cell disease has increased by around 67%.

Some 250 donations are needed every day to help those with sickle cell disease compared to around 150 donations per day five years ago, the NHSBT said.

It said the causes of rising demand are increasing patient numbers, patients living longer and more people receiving “complete blood transfusions”.

Currently, the blood donor service can only provide matched blood for just over half of the hospital requests.

Other patients need the universal blood type, O negative, which is clinically safe but can lead to complications in the long-term.

Some 55% of black people have a Ro blood type, compared to 2% of the wider population.

Those with sickle cell disease produce unusually shaped red blood cells which can cause problems as they don’t live as long as healthy blood cells and they can block blood vessels.

This can cause “agonising crisis episodes” and potentially fatal complications such as organ damage or stroke.

Treatment can help with many symptoms but it is a serious and lifelong health condition.

To stay alive, many patients with sickle cell need to have regular blood transfusions.

Oyesola Oni, 39, has sickle cell and needs all her blood replaced by donor blood every five weeks.


The mother of one from Nottingham said: “During a sickle cell crisis it’s like someone is stabbing me, at other times it’s like something crushing my bones. It’s excruciating.”

“Every few weeks the hospital needs to remove all my sickled cells and replace them with donor blood.

“The need for blood never stops, the demand keeps increasing.

“I would urge people of black heritage to step out and donate. It’s in your blood to help people like me.”

Alloa and Hillfoots Advertiser: Oyesola Oni needs all her blood replaced by donor blood every five weeks due to sickle cell (NHSBT)Oyesola Oni needs all her blood replaced by donor blood every five weeks due to sickle cell (NHSBT) (Image: NHSBT)

Dr Rekha Anand, consultant in transfusion medicine for NHSBT said: “Matched blood is vital for sickle cell patients to reduce the risk of serious complications and black people are more likely to be able to donate matched blood.

“There has been a small rise in black people donating blood but we urgently need more to become regular donors.

“Giving blood is easy, quick and safe – and you will save and improve lives.”

NHS England’s director of healthcare inequalities improvement , Dr Bola Owolabi, added: “Sickle cell disproportionately affects people from a Black African or Black Caribbean background and these new figures show hospitals need more blood for people with sickle cell disease than ever before.

“I urge anyone from these communities who is able to give blood to step forward and help treat the thousands of people living with this painful hereditary condition.”

Professor Kevin Fenton, regional director for London for the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities, said: “Being able to provide high quality clinical care to sickle cell patients both saves and improves the quality of their lives and is an important step in helping tackle health inequalities.

“I urge anyone who is eligible to donate blood as this selfless act will ensure we can continue to save lives by helping those who need it most.”

You can become a blood donor and find out more about it via the GiveBloodNHS app or via the website.