NHS Blood and Transplant attends UK Black Pride festival to celebrate one year since changes to blood donation eligibility rules

10 August 2022

NHS Blood and Transplant will be attending the UK Black Pride event for the first time to celebrate changes in blood donation eligibility rules which means more people than ever before can now become donors.

The NHS hopes to reach the 15,000 people expected to attend the event this weekend from the African, Asian and Caribbean and LGBT+ communities in London with the message that more people than ever before can now donate blood.

Man performing on stage at Pride festival. Some audience members have their blood group labelledIn June 2021 changes to blood donor eligibility rules meant that more men who have sex with men were able to donate blood, platelets and plasma for the first time.

And in December 2021 a question on sexual activity of partners in areas where HIV is widespread, including Sub-Saharan Africa, was removed from the donor safety check form.

This means that more Black African donors and other potential donors who were in long-term relationships with people from these countries are now able to donate blood.

The changes marked a historic move to make blood donation more inclusive while keeping blood just as safe.

UK Black Pride takes place at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford, London, on August 14 – just a ten-minute walk from Westfield Stratford City Donor Centre.

Community engagement teams from NHS Blood and Transplant will be promoting blood and organ donation at UK Black Pride and speaking to people about the eligibility changes.

There is an urgent need for more donors as blood stock levels are expected to be a challenge through the summer when people are busy with holidays and events and appointments are impacted by staff and donor illness.

In July, NHS Blood and Transplant launched a new LonDonor campaign to encourage more people across the capital to become blood donors with 42,000 new blood donors in London needed this year to keep supplying blood for lifesaving treatments.

There is also a critical need for more people of Black African and Black Caribbean ethnicity to become blood donors. Black donors are more likely to have the blood sub-type Ro.

Ro is often used to treat the growing number of people with the rare blood disorder, sickle cell disease. Only 2% of our donors have Ro blood which is ten times more common in Black people than in White people.

Each month 1,300 Black donors are needed to give blood to provide life-saving transfusions to sickle cell patients, as well as for use in emergencies, childbirth, during surgery, in cancer treatments and for use in other medical conditions.

This week only 30% of appointments at Westfield Stratford City Donor Centre have been booked. And next week, from August 15, 80% of appointment are currently available at the centre.

Other donation centres or community donation sessions across London also have appointments available.

Pav Akhtar, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “The first-year anniversary of new eligibility changes coming into effect is a significant milestone for safe and inclusive donations.

“NHS Blood and Transplant now has one of the world’s most progressive blood donation policies, while still maintaining the safety of our blood supply – something we can all be proud of.

“This is an opportunity to build on our existing work with diverse communities to encourage more people to donate by raising awareness of these eligibility changes.

“We are delighted to be partnering with UK Black Pride to promote the life-changing gift of blood donation that many more people from LGBT+ and Black communities are now able to give.

“It takes just one hour to give blood, and each time you can save or improve up to three lives.”

Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, the founder and Executive Director of UK Black Pride, said: “Black and LGBT+ communities have always made a massive contribution to the lives and wellbeing of patients and the NHS.

“This partnership between the NHS and UK Black Pride will help to ensure more potential donors are aware that restrictions have been removed, and that they can help save lives too.

“UK Black Pride is a leader in eradicating barriers to Black and LGBT+ peoples’ access and contribution to life-saving services.

“Having the blood and organ donation teams at UK Black Pride will help with the education we need to recruit more diverse donors and ensure we have more equitable and inclusive outcomes that reduce health inequalities.”

Minister for patient safety, James Morris, said: “Thanks to our landmark change to the eligibility rules on blood donation last year, which focuses on individual behaviours - rather than blanket deferrals - more people than ever before have the opportunity to safely give blood and help save lives.

“More than ever, we need people to donate so I encourage everyone who is able to, to register – particularly the Black LGBTQI+ community – because you can help us to support those in need.

“I’m constantly examining the latest evidence relating to blood donation so we have more inclusive policies that allow more people to donate blood.”

The Mayor of London’s Health Advisor, Dr. Tom Coffey OBE, said: “As a London GP, I have seen first-hand how sickle cell can negatively impact the lives of patients and their families. It is the fastest growing genetic blood disorder and one that disproportionately affects people of Black heritage.

“I’m pleased that the change in blood donation eligibility rules that came into effect last year are helping to make a difference for patients, but we still need many more people to come forward.

“I encourage all those attending UK Black Pride to consider doing something amazing and donating blood to potentially save a fellow Londoner’s life.”

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