Funding boost to promote blood and organ donation amongst Black and Asian communities

11 March 2021

35 community projects in England have received a share of £600,000 funding as part of the Government’s commitment to tackle health inequalities in Black and Asian communities.

The Community Investment Scheme, which is led by NHS Blood and Transplant, will fund local organisations to drive awareness, understanding and behaviour change.

Having previously only focussed on promoting organ donation, the scheme has now been opened to include projects which also highlight the importance of blood donation.

Developing grassroot connections

For the first time, NHS Blood and Transplant opened up the Community Investment Scheme to encourage projects and organisations to include blood donation. This was to develop grassroot connections and work with trusted voices and organisations who can help address barriers and normalise blood donation within Black African and Black Caribbean communities.

Sickle cell is currently the fastest growing genetic disorder in both the UK and the wider world. People from Black African or Black Caribbean backgrounds are most likely to have this condition which can often require frequent, life-saving blood transfusions.

For those reliant on regular transfusions, it is essential that they receive blood matched as closely as possible to their own. A match is most likely to come from a donor of the same ethnicity, yet currently only 1.5% of donors in England are Black.

This January has seen a record number of blood donor registrations from the Black community but twice as many are still needed to meet the growing clinical need.

There is also an increased demand for some rare blood subtypes, such as Ro, that are more common in Black people.

More blood donors from a Black background are needed as these subtypes are important when someone has regular transfusions as they need blood that matches their own as closely as possible to reduce the risk of potentially life-threatening transfusion reactions.

Projects funded

One of the 35 projects taking part in the Community Investment Scheme this year is Bristol African Caribbean Expo (BACE) & Bristol Community FM Radio (BCFM) whose aim is to create a podcast series that will be shared across multiple platforms. The series will address the lack of awareness of both blood and organ donation in Black African and Caribbean communities.

Primrose Granville from BACE said: “We are delighted to be recipients of NHS Blood & Transplant, Community Investment Scheme funding.

We are an organisation which is deeply embedded in the local area and has strong grassroot links to the community which we hope to engage throughout the project. All of the work we do is focussed on the local communities and we want to prove that these communities are not hard to reach.”

“Together we will be creating ten podcasts over twelve months to highlight the health inequalities relating to both blood and organ donation and how this specifically impacts our communities.

“One of the topics we are keen to explore further is highlighting how the shortage of both blood and organs within the Black African and Caribbean communities can lead to further medical conditions.

“We also want to discuss the mental impact of waiting for an organ and delving deeper in the lives of people whose families are affected by sickle cell and rely heavily on blood transfusions from anonymous donors.”

Another project who has received funding as part of the Community Investment Scheme is Black Blood Matters. The organisation is joining forces with RevolYOUtion London CIC to deliver five novel campaigns with the aim of promoting a positive attitude towards blood donation amongst 18 to 29 year olds from a Black African and Caribbean heritage living in London.

Georgelene Elliott, Founder and CEO of Black Blood Matters, said: “Black Blood Matters exists to engage, empower and educate about the importance of blood donation in the Black African and Caribbean community.  

“To us, a representative society is a thriving society; and the health of our community plays an imperative part in enabling that.

“The only way to ensure that everyone reaches their full potential is to first ensure that everyone is in good health to do so. This means having enough blood donors to make sure those living with sickle cell and other blood disorders in our community have access to the right treatment. 

“Black Blood Matters will use this funding to deliver campaigns that address barriers to donation in our community, foster conversation and encourage more people to step up and donate.

“We want to be a catalyst for lasting change and are grateful for this scheme, and the support of RevolYOUtion London, for providing the opportunity to do just that!”

See a full list of projects funded in this round of the Community Investment Scheme (PDF 147KB)

Making progress

Since its launch in 2018, the Community Investment Scheme has supported 43 organisations to deliver 50 community-led projects. With around 4,000 people engaging in conversation or taking away a leaflet or information on the importance of organ donation and 8,000 attending a talk or workshop.

Altaf Kazi, Head of Faith and Belief Engagement at NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “Through the Community Investment Scheme we have seen first-hand the abilities of trusted individuals and community groups to prompt conversation, tackle misinformation, educate and offer reassurance around organ donation and now blood donation.

Often a person’s best donor match will share their ethnicity, but too many donation opportunities are missed because families haven’t discussed organ donation, and Black and Asian people are seriously underrepresented when it comes to donating blood.  

“We are asking more people from Black and Asian communities to find out about both blood and organ donation and help us to address the inequalities that many members of these communities may face. By giving your support you can help save lives.”

For more information about the Community Investment Scheme please visit our dedicated CIS webpages or contact: