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Joining the register

As a blood donor, you already provide a vital service to patients who need blood, and by registering with the British Bone Marrow Registry (BBMR) you could help people even further.

All of our donors are made available for searching as potential matches for patients anywhere in the world.

Who we need

We are looking for people who are:

  • male blood donors aged between 17 and 40 years old  
  • females aged between 17 and 40 from black, Asian, minority or mixed ethnic (BAME) backgrounds


We use these criteria to target the donors we are short of on the register.

Why we need these stem cell donors

Young people - Clinical data tells us that transplants are more successful from younger donors.

Caucasian men - There are many more women registered than men, but men are asked to donate much more often. In fact, last year over 80% of our stem cell donors were men, but they make up only 44% of our potential donors.

A range of ethnic groups - Caucasian patients are able to find the best possible match in 70% of cases, but for patients from a BAME background this drops starkly to as low as 20%. This is why we recruit both men and women from these backgrounds.

How to join

To join the register, simply tell the staff when you next give blood.

We will check there is no medical reason preventing you from being both a blood donor and a stem cell donor.

At the time of your blood donation we will take an extra blood sample. This will enable us to extract your DNA to carry out Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) typing (often also known as tissue typing). This is the way we match patients and donors.

Please let the staff at the blood donation session know that you want to join the BBMR before your blood donation is completed.

Other registries

You may be able to join other registries if you don't meet our criteria. 

Our UK partners are Anthony Nolan and DKMS (previously Delete Blood Cancer UK). Donors in Wales may consider the Welsh Bone Marrow Donor Registry, which is operated by the Welsh Blood Service.

You only need to join one UK registry as we anonymously share matching information.

What happens next?

We will add your tissue type onto our confidential computerised register.

We will keep a sample of your DNA to enable more detailed testing relating to stem cell donation in the future. You can ask us to discard this sample at any time.

All information provided to NHS Blood and Transplant is used in accordance with the General Data Protection Regulation and all other relevant privacy and data protection laws.

Your details remain on the register until your 60th birthday. If at any stage you no longer qualify to give blood, please inform us as you may need to be taken off the register.

Patients and potential donors are matched by comparing HLA (tissue) types. If you come up as a potential match, we will contact you to discuss and ask for further blood samples. 

Keep your contact details up to date

Let us know if you've moved house, got a new phone number or if any of your personal details have changed.

You can do this when you next give blood or by calling 0300 123 23 23

Keeping this information up to date makes it quicker to contact you if you're potential match.

You can also ask for your name to be removed from the BBMR at any time.

What happens if I am a match for a patient?

If you are identified as the best possible match with a patient, we will invite you to come into one of our specialist centres for an explanation of the procedures.

You will also have a thorough medical examination by a doctor and you will be asked to give your consent for a number of blood tests, to ensure there is no medical reason why you shouldn't donate.

Read more about what happens if you are a match.

This is a serious commitment and you should consider the full implications for both you and the patient when you first complete the consent form and provide a blood sample for testing. If, however, you do not wish to proceed, you may withdraw at any stage.