NHSBT's Vincent Drive Centre celebrates 50 years of providing life saving support

17 July 2014

A centre that sits at the heart of blood transfusion, organ donation and stem cell transplants in the West Midlands celebrated its 50th anniversary on Wednesday 16 July. The Vincent Drive Centre in Edgbaston has been serving the local community for half a century and the Lord Mayor of Birmingham, unveiled a plaque at a celebration event to mark the milestone.

Local blood donors, hospital staff, past and present NHS Blood and Transplant employees and people whose lives have been saved by blood and organ donation attended the rededication event.

Attendees at the event heard more about the history of the centre and listened to real life accounts of how blood and organ donation saved the lives of four local residents Rachael Cook., Elizabeth Harley, Nadine Simpson and Ulrika Dandekar.

The Vincent Drive Centre is host to many of NHS Blood and Transplant s specialist laboratories including one of the biggest Stem Cell laboratories in the UK which collects and processes stem cells from 6 local hospitals, as well as registry donations from the UK, EU and US.

The Stock Holding Unit at the centre stores and issues around 40 per cent of the South West's blood products covering a population of around 5.2 million people. The transport team at the site supply 31 hospitals in the West Midlands area as well as the military. Around 230,000 units of blood and 30,000 units of platelets are issued to these hospitals to help treat patients every year.

In addition to this, the West Midlands organ donation team also call Vincent Drive their home. 22 Specialist Nurses based at the centre work tirelessly in local hospitals. Part of their key role in ensuring that more organ transplants are available to those that need them is to provide support to local families who find themselves in the position where they are asked to donate their loved ones' organs. Rachael Cook, from Stone, spoke at the event. Rachael was on dialysis for eight years before she had her first kidney transplant. During this time she received over 20 blood transfusions as she suffered from anaemia. Rachael s first kidney donation failed after three days and she then needed a further 10 units of blood to save her life. Rachael has now fully recovered from her second kidney transplant and spoke about her experience of blood and organ donation at the event.

Rachael said: 'I have needed both blood transfusions and organ transplants, so I am incredibly thankful to all the people that donate blood or make the decision to donate their loved ones' organs and to the amazing staff that work here at NHS Blood and Transplant in Birmingham. I wouldn't be here today without those people and the life saving work that NHS Blood and Transplant does. It has been a pleasure to attend the 50th anniversary of the centre and find out more about the work that goes on here.'

Kevin Cartwright, Head of Birmingham Centre said: 'Fifty years ago this centre was focused on supporting blood transfusions whilst organ transplantation was in its infancy. Now the centre is vital to supporting blood, organs and stem cell transplants across the region. Over the past 50 years, we have made huge improvements to the services we provide, driven by pioneering medical advances. We're proud that our scientists and teams have often been at the heart of those advances.

'It has been a pleasure to welcome the Lord Mayor to the centre to unveil the plaque and speak at the rededication ceremony. I am also happy that the guests were able to hear first hand accounts of how important blood and organ donation is from Rachel, Elizabeth, Nadine and Ulrika and what a difference our work has made to their lives.

'Our work would not be possible without the dedication and compassion that we see from local people in the West Midlands. So I would like to say a big thank you to all the blood donors, stem cell donors and families that have agreed to organ donation as without you, we would not be able to carry out our life saving work and to save as many lives as we have.

'However, we always need more people to become blood donors in the West Midlands and we are especially keen to engage with people from Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority (BAME) communities. In the West Midlands people from these communities make up just one out of 10 active blood donors despite representing three out of ten people living in the county.

'We also need more people to join the NHS Organ Donor Register and speak to their families about their organ donation decision. In the Midlands and in the rest of the UK, the BAME consent rate for organ donation is 36.4 per cent and 35.9 per cent respectively. This is still behind the consent rate which is seen in white families which currently stands at 63.3 per cent.

To find out more about blood donation or to book an appointment, visit www.blood.co.uk or call 0300 123 23 23.

To join the Organ Donor Register visit www.organdonation.nhs.uk or call 0300 123 23 23. Share your decision to donate with your family and loved ones too.


* Active blood donor refers to people who have donated blood in the last two years and the percentage of the county's population is based on figures from the 2011 census

  • For additional information please contact Sarah Whyte in the NHS Blood and Transplant press office by calling 01923 367618.
  • For urgent, out-of-hours enquiries please call 0117 969 2444.

Notes to editors

  • NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) is a joint England and Wales Special Health Authority. Its remit includes the provision of a reliable, efficient supply of blood and associated services to the NHS in England and North Wales. It is also the organ donor organisation for the UK and is responsible for matching and allocating donated organs.
  • Donors can search for sessions, change their contact details, book appointments and change/cancel their appointments in real time on www.blood.co.uk
  • There are apps available for Android and Apple Smartphone and tablet devices which enable donors to search for their nearest blood donation session.
  • NHSBT's donor line - 0300 123 23 23 - is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week with all calls charged at the standard local rate, even from mobile phones.
  • NHSBT collects 1.8 million units of blood each year from over 23,000 blood donation sessions in more than 3,000 venues.
  • Only four per cent of the eligible population are active blood donors A unit of blood is measured as 470mls (or just under a pint).