Cord blood set to save more lives

Since it was set up in 1996 the NHS Cord Blood Bank has helped save many lives. Thanks to new investment cord blood is now helping even more patients

Photograph of a mother in hospital holding her new born baby

Foetal blood stem cells donated at birth are helping to save lives

  • Foetal blood stem cells donated at birth are helping to save lives
  • Foetal blood stem cells

Hundreds of patients have already benefitted from cord blood donations. This blood, which is found in the placenta and umblical cord after a birth, is rich in blood stem cells similar to those found in bone marrow.

These special cells can be used to treat and sometimes cure many different cancers, immune deficiencies and genetic disorders.

There are currently six, hospitals in and around the London area with cord blood collection centres. Mothers booked in to give birth are invited to think about donating their babies' cord blood. If they register their interest, trained staff contact them before the birth to ask some simple lifestyle questions and to obtain verbal consent for the collection, testing and use of the donation.

Completely safe

The procedures used to collect cord blood are completely safe and risk-free for both mother and baby. This is because the collection of cord blood is made from the placenta after the baby is born, after the cord is cut and after the placenta has been delivered. Cord blood donations are handled by our NHSBT staff, leaving the midwife completely free to care for mother and baby.

Dr Martin Guttridge, head of the NHS Cord Blood Bank, explains, "We have worked closely with midwives since the bank opened in 1996 to ensure donating is absolutely safe for mother and baby. Mothers should feel reassured they can safely donate and know they have helped others who need a life-saving stem cell transplant."

Our six cord blood collection centres are at Barnet General, Watford General, Northwick Park, Luton and Dunstable and St George's Hospital in Tooting. University College Hospital started collecting in November.

As there is a shortage of stem cell donors from Black and minority ethnic (BME) groups, all the cord blood centres are located in ethnically diverse areas, with the aim of collecting more cord blood donations from these communities.

In September, Watford General Hospital became the first centre to expand to a 24/7 service. These extended hours will now be rolled out to all the centres before the end of 2011. The extended hours mean mothers giving birth at the six hospitals will be able to donate their cord blood at whatever time their baby arrives. This will help save the lives of even more patients needing stem cell donations.


The increased hours have been made possible by a £4 million investment from the Government to NHSBT and Anthony Nolan so we can collaborate on improving stem cell services. As a result, more cord blood will be collected and stem cell donors and potential recipients will be matched far more quickly, reducing average search times to two weeks. It is estimated this will save an additional life every month.