Sickle cell disease: NHS issues plea for more black blood donors as it faces shortage

The demand for blood to treat sickle cell disease has risen by over two thirds in the last five years, a report suggests. 

As sickle cell disease patients continue to mount up, the NHS is drawing closer to a shortage of the blood they can use to treat the condition.

In an attempt to counteract this, the NHS has issued an urgent rallying call for more blood donors of African or Caribbean descent.

This is because studies show that sickle cell disease disproportionately affects black people. According to the CDC, in the USA, sickle cell disease affects one in every 365 black people.

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    Sickle cell disease is a genetic condition that affects the shape of red blood cells. Without proper treatment, it can be fatal - although, interestingly, it is thought to give some immunity towards malaria.

    As sickle cell disease is a genetic condition, you are far more likely to have it if one or both of your parents are a carrier of the disease. If both of your parents have sickle cell disease, there is a one in four chance that you will be born with it, according to the NHS.

    Sickle cell disease is a genetic condition that disproportionately affects black people.

    The condition can be cured by a stem cell or bone marrow transplant, but this is rarely done due to the risk implications. Usually, sickle cell disease patients will receive treatment throughout their lives, usually entailing a series of blood transfusions.

    However, with the NHS facing a shortage of the required blood, patients of sickle cell disease may not be able to get the treatment they need.

    NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) have said that 250 donations a day will be necessary to ensure that all patients can receive proper treatment - as opposed to five years ago, when just 150 a day would have been sufficient.

    NHSBT describes the symptoms of sickle cell disease as follows:

    • Severe bouts of pain that can last up to a week (sickle cell crisis)
    • Increased risk of infection
    • Anaemia 
    • Fatigue
    • Shortness of breath