This Black History Month NHS Blood and Transplant is urging black people to join the rising numbers saving lives in their community by registering as blood and organ donors.
More people from black backgrounds are now giving blood and donating their organs after they have died. But there is still an urgent shortage of donors to help black patients who need lifesaving or life enhancing blood transfusions and organ transplants.
There are now more than 17,000 active blood donors from black backgrounds compared with fewer than 13,000 five years ago (1).
But NHS Blood and Transplant urgently needs 40,000 more people from black African, black Caribbean and mixed heritage backgrounds to come forward as blood donors, as they are more likely to have the Ro blood type which can help people with sickle cell.
The number of black people donating their organs after they have died and those donating a kidney during their lifetime remains low, and more black organ donors are urgently needed.
Last year 25 people from black backgrounds donated organs after they died. While this is an increase compared with 17 five years earlier, black families are still less likely to go ahead with organ donation than white families (2).
The number of living organ donors from the black community is declining, mirroring the trend across all ethnicities. Last year 17 black people donated a kidney as a living donor, less than half the figure of five years earlier.
In contrast there are currently 632 black people waiting for a transplant with the vast majority of those in need of a kidney (3). Sadly, last year 31 patients from black backgrounds died waiting for a transplant (4).
The severe shortage of organ donors from black backgrounds means that black people wait on average more than six months longer for a kidney transplant than people from white backgrounds.
Davinia Caballero, 33, from Brixton in London, needed a transplant after her kidneys were damaged by sickle cell disease. She was forced to rely on dialysis and needed blood transfusions during her treatment. Davinia received a kidney from her brother David through living donation in 2017.
“I was lucky. Without my brother’s generosity I may have faced years on dialysis because of the lack of donors, particularly from black backgrounds. People in our community don’t talk enough about organ donation and that needs to change,” said Davinia, who is a member of NHS Blood and Transplant’s B Positive Choir.
“More black people need to step up as blood donors too. Blood transfusions helped me through dialysis and I have friends with sickle cell who rely on regular transfusions just to stay alive. Many people think blood is only needed in emergency situations, but it is important in many other ways too.
“This October we celebrate our black heroes of history, but donors are heroes too. Please join them. Sign up to give blood and be an organ donor and save lives in our community.”
During Black History Month NHS Blood and Transplant is holding a number of events across the country to raise awareness and boost donor numbers.
The activity is part of a Government campaign being led by NHS Blood and Transplant to break down barriers to donation that exist within black, Asian and ethnic minority communities.
Sally Johnson, Interim Chief Executive of NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “Donors save and improve lives. More than 2,300 people from the black community are alive today thanks to an organ transplant (5).
“Many of the 15,000 people living with sickle cell disease in the UK depend on frequent blood transfusions to lead normal lives. We need 10 blood donors to make each transfusion possible.
“We are incredibly grateful to every person who gives blood and joins the NHS Organ Donor Register, and to those inspirational families who say yes to organ donation after a loved one has died.
“More black people are saving lives in these ways. But there is still an urgent need for people in the black community to help others who depend on a match with a donor from a similar ethnic background.
“Please, make Black History Month the time you take action to save lives in your community. Sign up as a blood donor and join the NHS Organ Donor Register, and talk to your family and friends about your decision.”
More information about the campaign including links to digital and social media materials that can be downloaded and shared can be found at www.organdonation.nhs.uk/black-history-month and www.blood.co.uk/black-history-month. The hashtag for the campaign is #BlackHistoryMonth.
Please go to www.blood.co.uk to register as a donor and book an appointment to give blood.
Please join the Organ Donor Register at www.organdonation.nhs.uk
Photo: Davinia Caballero.
Stock photos: An organ donor card and blood bags on ice