A campaign has been launched to raise awareness of the urgent need for more black blood donors.
Some of the most influential black people in Britain including John Lewis partnership chair Dame Sharon White and founding director of Operation Black Vote Lord Simon Woolley have joined efforts to raise awareness of the shortage.
The latest data from NHS Blood and Transplant shows that just 1% of active blood donors in England are black.
More black donors are urgently needed to meet the increasing demand for the particular type of blood needed by sickle cell patients, known as the Ro subtype.
NHS Blood and Transplant said sickle cell is the fastest growing genetic condition in the UK and the number of donations needed to treat it has grown from 150 a day five years ago to 250 a day now.
Sickle cell – a group of inherited blood conditions that affect red blood cells –
is more prevalent in black people and ethnically matched blood provides the best treatment, the NHS service said.
More than half (55%) of black people in the UK have the Ro subtype, compared with 2% of the general population and, therefore, more black donors are needed to meet the increasing demand.
Dame Sharon and Lord Woolley, who both feature on the Powerlist 2023 – a list of Britain’s most influential people of African and African Caribbean heritage – appealed for more black donors to come forward.
Dame Sharon said: “We know that black people are more likely to suffer from sickle cell which can require regular blood transfusions.
“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.”
Lord Woolley, a former Government adviser on race and the first black man to be elected head of an Oxbridge college, said: “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.”
The pair visited a new NHS donor centre in east London to launch the campaign, which is also supported by Netflix boss Anne Mensah.
Ms Mensah, vice-president of UK content at the streaming giant said: “I am proud to support this campaign and have been giving blood at my local centre for years. Giving blood can be the difference between life and death for someone in our community.
“I encourage us all to do it if we can.”
Mark Croucher, assistant director for donor experience services at NHS Blood and Transplant said: “We are delighted to have the support of some of the most influential people in the country to help us raise awareness of the urgent need for more black heritage blood donors.
“The demand for ethnically matched blood for sickle cell patients is on the rise and has already doubled in recent years.
“If you haven’t donated blood before, or haven’t in a while, we’d love to welcome you to our amazing community of lifesaving blood donors and help meet the needs of patients right now and in the future.
“Each blood donation can save or improve up to three lives.”