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Blood donation centre hopes to attract black donors

HELPING OTHERS: Eugene Matthew and donor carer Steph Kaye donating at the The West End Donor Centre

NHS BLOOD and Transplant has reopened the expanded and refurbished West End Donor Centre – the biggest blood donor centre in England – in a bid to support people living with sickle cell disease.

The donor centre has been transformed as the centrepiece of a five-year strategy to increase blood donation in the capital. Currently, only 0.92 per cent of Londoners give blood, which means Londoners are 38 per cent less likely to be a donor than the English average.

NHS Blood and Transplant is making the investment, mainly because of the rapid rise in cases of the rare blood disorder sickle cell disease. Many sickle patients need Ro group blood. Over the past three years, there has been an 80 per cent increase in requests for Ro to NHSBT’s London blood stock units.

The West End Donor Centre refurbishment, which took three months to complete, saw the centre being modernised to make it brighter and more comfortable for donors, with an increase in the number of donation chairs from six to nine, creating 20,000 more chances to donate a year.

The refurbished centre was opened on Christmas Eve. NHS Blood and Transplant needs new young donors to fill the appointments, especially new black donors. Black people are more likely to have sickle cell disease and more likely to have the blood groups sickle cell patients need for their treatment. Around 45 per cent of all potential Ro blood donors in the country live in London.


Sandra Sowerby, West End Donor Centre manager, said: “We need new donors to come forward from all the different blood groups, but there is a particular need in London for new black donors because they are more likely to have the rarer blood groups that sickle cell patients need.

“Giving blood is simple and easy to do. The donation itself takes ve to 10 minutes and each donation can save or improve up to three lives. Giving blood is an amazing gift. The centre is bright and modern, but there’s still free tea, coffee and bis- cuits for donors.”

One of the first donors was Eugene Matthew, 25, a production accountant, from Walthamstow, east London. He made his first ever donation after coming down with his girlfriend, and regular donor, Megan Collins, 25, a civil servant also from Walthamstow.

Eugene said: “It wasn’t hard and it didn’t hurt. My girlfriend has always said that I should donate. She has the rare Ro bloodtype, so I thought, ‘Why not?’”

Sickle cell disease is more common in black people. The patient’s blood cells form into a sickle shape and they get stuck in blood vessels, causing extreme pain, life-threatening infections and other complications such as stroke or loss of vision.

Over 7,000 sickle cell patients live in London – more than double the rest of the country combined – and it is the fastest growing genetic disease in the country. One person who knows the importance of blood donations is Shaylah Haider, aged nine,
a sickle cell patient from New Barnet.

She received blood transfusions every three weeks since birth until a life changing stem cell transplant from mum Leila, in March 2016.


Following her transplant, Shaylah still attends St Mary’s Hospital for regular blood tests and occasional transfusions. Recently, Shaylah started school after two years of being out of school due to ill health.

Leila Haider, Shaylah’s mum, said: “She has always been a tough cookie and will continue to be a ghter. Blood transfusions have saved Shaylah’s life on so many occasions I can’t even count them. She usually needed them the most over the winter months.

"Without donors, I honestly don’t know if she would be with us today. I am so happy than there will be chances to donate in London to help patients like Shaylah.” Another patient who has benefitted from blood donations is Angel Salami, aged six, a sickle cell patient from Wandsworth, south London.

She received a lifesaving blood transfusion in June 2018, and came to support the opening event. Angel had turned blue and was struggling to breathe when her parents rushed her to A&E at St George’s Hospital in Tooting. Her body had stopped making red blood cells and her haemoglobin had dropped to a dangerous level, which could have led to organ failure and even death.

Kehinde Salami, Angel’s father, said: “Without the help of a hero in the form of a blood donor, Angel wouldn’t be alive today. That is the incredible reality of giving blood. I would encourage Londoners to register and donate to help children across the capital like Angel.”

The West End Donor Centre is open seven days a week and can be found at 26 Margaret Street, London, W1W 8NB.

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