Figures released today to mark the end of Sickle Cell Awareness Month (September) show that black people in London are responding to the urgent need for donors.
Over the past year, 11% more black people have started donating blood in Greater London at donor centres in Edgware, Tooting and the West End, and mobile donation sessions are held in community venues such as church halls.
NHS Blood and Transplant is now urging more black people in London to register as blood donors and save lives because the overall shortage of donors remains.
Among those supporting the appeal is Lloyd Simmonds, aged 60, from South Hampstead.
He has been hailed as one of London’s most prolific black blood donors donating 132 times. Each donation can save up to three lives so Lloyd has helped up to 396 people.
A former detective now working as a coroner’s officer, he started donating in 1976, at a session in the city of London.
He now donates at Edgware Donor Centre.
Lloyd said: “The donor centres are like donating in luxury compared to when I started donating in places like school halls.
“You have got special seats and everything else, and the environment is really comfortable. It’s really interesting to get the text message saying where the blood has gone.”
Lloyd added: “I am aware there is a shortage of black donors, particularly to help people with sickle cell disease.
“I know some people are reticent and there is some fear of the needle and giving blood.
“But by donating you can save a life. Plain and simple. You can give somebody else the opportunity you have got.”
People from the same ethnic background are more likely to have the same blood types. However the shortage of black blood donors makes it harder to find the best matched blood for black patients.
Nationally, new NHSBT figures show that the number of black blood donors has grown over the past three years in response to urgent appeals in recent years but the situation is still very serious – NHS Blood and Transplant still needs 40,000 new black donors nationally.
The red blood cells of sickle cell patients form into a sickle or crescent moon shape. These deformed cells can block blood vessels, causing agonising pain, and creating a risk of organ damage, stroke, and death.
Mike Stredder, Director of Blood Donation, said: “This month we can celebrate how more and more black people in London are saving lives by donating blood.
If you are interested in becoming a blood donor you can register and book an appointment by calling 0300 123 23 23, downloading the GiveBloodNHS app, or visiting blood.co.uk