Under Representation in NHS Blood Donations

Minorities are under-represented in many sectors. I’ve touched on areas where we have been under-represented. But over the next few weeks I’m going to highlight sectors in which we are under/overrepresented in fields that may not get enough attention. This week it’s:

Blood Donation:

Blood stocks are falling in the NHS which means blood donations have become increasingly important. The NHS claims that every day they need around 6,000 donations to cover the demand in England.

For full disclosure I’m giving blood today (at time of writing). I’ve only given blood once before. Before my first donation, donating blood had never crossed my mind until my friend asked me to drop her to appointment. She has strong reasons for donating. As blood stocks are falling she felt a need to step up. She would accept blood in treatment so why not give back if she’s healthy?

My reasons for donating blood for the first time were a lot more selfish. Admittedly, I was initially interested in finding out my blood type. Once I found out that I was A+ (they give you a key chain) I was interested to find out something else:

Ethnic minorities are more likely to have rare blood:

About a week after I got my blood type I got a separate letter stating that my blood falls under the Ro subtype. Currently only 2% of current donors have Ro blood.

Why is this important? As I stated in the introduction this is a field where we are under-represented. This area (theoretically) can be solved largely by ourselves simply by more of us donating. Despite the BAME population representing 14% of the UK population, less than 5% of us give blood. The consequences can be felt:

As stated before I have the Ro subtype which currently a small percentage of the donors have. If a person needed blood transfusions on a regular basis (such as people who suffer from sickle cell disease) they would need an extensive match for their blood including subtypes. If the person has a Ro subtype, as there is a limited supply of that category from donors it makes each donation critical.

Black people are ten times more likely to have the Ro subtype than white people. In fact, the BAME community are likely to have rare blood. Some rare blood types are only found within the BAME communities.

Sickle cell disease affects those of Black African or Black Caribbean ethnicities more than other ethnic groups. Thalassaemia mainly affects those from South Asian heritage. Blood donors have a greater chance of matching those from the same ethnic communities. Those who suffer from both of these diseases usually require frequent blood transfusions.

Therefore, for us in the BAME community it is important that we step up and donate blood. The chances are we would help those of us in the same community.

Summary

There are societal fields in which the BAME community are grossly under-represented, but this is one area which didn’t occur to me until recently. There were blood donations ads in my periphery, encouraging the BAME community to donate, but I was unaware of how important it was. The NHS needs more BAME donors as it is more likely that their donations would help BAME patients.