TV stars ask people to say 'I'm on it'

11 April 2016

TV stars ask people to say 'I'm on it'

  • New campaign film urges black and mixed race people to join donor registers
  • Alesha Dixon, Richard Blackwood and Chizzy Akudolu among celebrities giving their support

Blood cancer charity ACLT (AfricanCaribbean Leukaemia Trust) and NHS Blood and Transplant have teamed up to launch a new campaign film, #ImOnIt to highlight the importance of black and mixed race people signing up to become a stem cell donor as well as registering as blood and organ donors.                                 

The film features the recital of a spoken word poem written by Mark Thompson; husband of leukaemia survivor Sarah Thompson. Through the poem, Mark talks about the ‘ultimate gift of life’ given to Sarah when she received a stem cell transplant ten years ago, this year.

The short piece is narrated by several well-known faces from the UK’s music and entertainment industry; including Alesha Dixon (Britain’s Got Talent), Richard Blackwood (Eastenders), Chizzy Akudolu (Holby City), Ashley Walters (Top Boy), Jovian Wade (Eastenders) and more.

During the video, the celebrities speak directly to camera and call on people to say “I’m On It” and register to become a blood, organ, and stem cell donor.

The need for more Black African or Black Caribbean people to join the stem cell register remains as important today as it was nearly 20 years ago when ACLT was founded. White patients requiring a stem cell transplant have up to a 60-90% chance of finding a match. If you are from a black or mixed race background then your chances could be as little as 20% or even lower.*

Of the 878,991 active donors** who have given blood across England and North Wales in the last 12 months, less than 1% are from black communities.   Of all the potential bone marrow donors registered with the British Bone Marrow Registry (BBMR), only 1.2% are from black communities.

There are also fewer black organ donors, as last year only 20*** out of the 1,282 deceased donors in the UK were from the black community. In contrast, there are currently around 600 black people waiting for an organ transplant with the vast majority of those in need of a kidney donor.

Orin Lewis, ACLT co-founder & CEO said:

“The need for black blood, organ and stem cell donors can’t be emphasised enough.  Alongside NHS Blood and Transplant, we are encouraging people from black and mixed race backgrounds to say #ImOnIt and to sign up to give blood, donate their organs after death and to join the stem cell register. It is vital we highlight the woeful statistics and help save the lives of those in need.”

Ian Trenholm, Chief Executive of NHS Blood and Transplant, said:

“We need more black people to register as blood, organ and stem cell donors. Some rare blood types are more common among black communities and donations are used to treat blood disorders, such as Sickle Cell Disease, which are more likely to affect the black community. We also need to ensure blood supplies for the emergency treatment of patients with rare blood types, for example after road accidents or childbirth complications.

At the same time, black people in need of a kidney transplant spend longer waiting for an organ and far too many die before receiving the transplant they so desperately need. We need to find donors whose blood group and tissue type match the recipient and this is much more likely if they come from the same ethnic group. By registering today and saying ‘I’m on it’, you can help save lives.”

#ImOnIt calls on black and mixed race individuals to visit to register to join the blood, organ and stem cell donor registers. Alternatively, call NHS Blood and Transplant on 0300 123 23 23, quoting codes R20 when registering for blood donation and 2209 for organ donation.

Alesha Dixon, in her support of the campaign, says: “As a community we need to stand together and make a change to ensure anyone fighting an illness where a lifesaving donor is needed, has the chance to receive the ‘gift of life.’  If we all say #ImOnIt – this will take us closer to that becoming a reality."

To watch the video and find out more information, please visit:


For further information or to arrange a case study or spokesperson interviews, please contact Suzi Browne at NHS Blood and Transplant on or 01923 366844 or Ronke Oke at ACLT on or 020 8305 7891

Notes to editors

*ACLT/Anthony Nolan data

**Active blood donor refers to people who have donated blood in the last year.  NB. NHSBT currently collects blood in England and North Wales, but from 2 May will just be responsible for collecting blood in England


Ethnic group

Number of donors

Percentage of active donors %




Black- African



Black- Caribbean



Mixed W+B African



Mixed W+B Caribbean



Other Black background



***Statistics from the Organ Donation and Transplantation Activity Report 2014/15 -

ACLT (African Caribbean Leukaemia Trust)

ACLT is a leading blood cancer charity formed in 1996 with the main aim to increase the number of ethnic minorities on the UK stem cell (bone marrow) and blood donation registers.  The charity was formed after co-founders Beverley De-Gale OBE, and Orin Lewis OBE received the devastating news their son Daniel De-Gale was diagnosed with leukaemia in 1993 – he was just 6 years old.  He touched the hearts of a nation as he overcame incredible odds of 1 in 250,000 to become the first black individual in the UK to receive a lifesaving stem cell transplant from an unrelated donor in 1999.  Daniel beat his fight against leukaemia and lived a happy life alongside his family and friends for several years, however on 8th October 2008, Daniel sadly passed away due to complications with his health.

ACLT’s hard work to uphold Daniel’s legacy over the last 20 years has resulted in the charity saving over 70 lives through boosting the UK stem cell register from a mere 550 black individuals to over 70,000 individuals of all ethnicities, with approx. 70% of those individuals from an African and Caribbean background.  ACLT has also recruited thousands of blood and organ donors, with the latter becoming a focus for the charity in 2010.

Website: / Twitter & Instagram: @acltcharity / Facebook: The ACLT (African Caribbean Leukaemia Trust)

NHS Blood and Transplant

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.

Key facts about blood donation

  • Currently, less than 1% of blood donors are from a black background
  • NHSBT collects 1.7 million units of blood each year
  • A unit of blood is measured as 470mls (or just under a pint)
  • There are four main blood groups – O, A, B and AB. Group O is the most common and, therefore, the most in demand. Rarer blood groups include B+, Ro and RoR which are more common and more in-demand among black communities. Regular supply of blood is vital – red cells last 35 days and platelets only seven days
  • Female whole blood donors can give blood every 16 weeks while male blood donors must wait 12 weeks between donations. Platelets can be donated every two weeks.

Key facts about organ donation

  •  The proportion of BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) individuals registered onto the NHS Organ Donor Register, of those who state their ethnicity, is 3.6% (White British individuals is 96.4%)[1][1]
  • There are currently 6,470 people on the waiting list for a transplant in the UK[[2]]
  • One donor can save or transform up to nine lives and much more can be helped through the donation of tissues

Key facts about stem cell donation

  • The British Bone Marrow Registry (BBMR), run by NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT), is part of the Anthony Nolan and NHS Stem Cell Register and works in co-operation with other UK and worldwide bone marrow/ stem cell registries to provide stem cell donors for patients in need.
  • People on the British Bone Marrow Register are recruited exclusively from blood donors, and if called up, will donate blood stem cells or bone marrow that are used to provide potentially life-saving treatment to patients suffering from leukaemia or other blood disorders.
  • The British Bone Marrow Registry currently holds details of about 350,000 people who have agreed to potentially become bone marrow donors.  Only about 5% of potential donors registered with BBMR are of Black, Asian or Minority Ethnicity Background.
  • As of the 1st April 2016, NHSBT will change the recruitment criteria for the BBMR.  A donor can ask to join by informing a member of staff when they donate blood and must fall in to one of the following categories:
    • White, male only, aged 17-40
    • Black, Asian or Minority Ethnicity (BAME), either gender, aged 17-40

Key fact on blood cancer

  • Someone is diagnosed with blood cancer every 20 minutes
  • Around 2,000 people in the UK need a stem cell transplant from a stranger each year. This is usually their last chance of survival.
  • You have a 25% to 30% chance of having the same tissue type as a sibling
  • A black, Asian or ethnic minority individual living with blood cancer has less than a 20% chance of finding the best possible match from an unrelated donor (White British individuals have a 60% chance).
  • 90% of donations take place via PBSC (peripheral blood stem cell donation).  This is an outpatient appointment and is similar to donating blood.



[2] (Stats updated on a weekly basis, please get in contact for latest figures)