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Information for projects focusing on blood donation

The need for blood donation projects

This year, the Community Investment Scheme is opening up to fund organisations to encourage blood donation. Due to clinical need, any activity focusing on blood donation must engage the Black African and/or Black Caribbean communities. 

We are particularly keen to work with trusted voices and messengers who can help us address barriers, normalise blood donation and drive behaviour change within Black African and Black Caribbean communities.  

We will support you to engage, educate and recruit new Black blood donors to help us help more sickle cell patients.

You will support us by becoming part of our strategic approach to community engagement, mapping and identifying opportunities and using real life stories to show the impact Black blood donors can have.

Any applications focussed on engaging the Black community in blood donation should demonstrate: 

  • how you will work with Black communities to increase understanding about blood donation and the need for Black donors
  • how you will identify a schedule of activity to meet NHSBT’s acquisition needs i.e. group bookings 
  • what level of support you will require from NHSBT to deliver a local campaign
  • knowledge of GDPR requirements when handling personal data.  

Applicants should make use of existing NHSBT materials and videos that show the impact and process of blood donation.  

If you would like NHSBT support to run any blood collection sessions as part of your work this will need to have NHSBT approval at least 4 months in advance and you will need to operate in accordance with our current regulations and processes. Please contact keith.anderson@nhsbt.nhs.uk for more information 

Why are more Black blood donors needed?

NHSBT has an urgent priority to increase the number of Ro blood donations. This is because:  

  • Demand is increasing between 10-15% each year 
  • Only 2% of regular donors have Ro subtype

What is Ro?

The Ro subtype is a variation of the Rh positive blood type. You might have it if you have O positive, A positive, B positive or AB positive blood.  

 There is a gap between the number of donations that we collect and the amount of Ro blood that hospitals need.  

Why do we need Ro blood?

Ro blood is important in the treatment of people with sickle cell, an inherited blood disorder that mainly affects people of Black heritage. 

People with sickle cell have unusual shaped red blood cells, which can clump together and get stuck in blood vessels, causing extreme pain known as a ‘crisis’. This can lead to blindness, organ failure, stroke and many more symptoms. 

There are currently 14,000 people living with sickle cell in the UK, with 300 babies born with the condition per year. It is the fastest growing blood disorder in the UK.   

Since 2017, the NHS has provided a ground-breaking service for patients with sickle cell. It now provides regular transfusions to many patients, which help avoid sickle cell patients going into crisis, so they can enjoy a more normal life.  

Subtypes are important when someone has regular transfusions as they need blood that ethnically matches their own as closely as possible. 

People of Black heritage are ten-times more likely to have the Ro subtype, and due to the high number of people from that background who have the disorder, Ro blood is in high demand to ensure sickle cell patients can get the treatment they need. That’s why more Black blood donors are needed. 

Key motivators to give blood

Saving lives is a consistent motivator across all target audiences, however additional motivations for Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities include: 

  • Having a rare blood type or ‘special blood’ 
  • Helping someone from my community   
  • Differences in altruism – people of Black heritage are more likely to give to a relative or community project rather than a stranger. For both blood & organs it’s seen as a ‘shared responsibility’ as part of a caring community.

Real life stories are an effective key motivator, although they require a contemporary twist to be relevant for a younger audience. Check out our recent video series #MyBloodStory for inspiration. 

Barriers to giving blood

The process of donation and personal barriers are consistent across all target audiences e.g. personal belief/faithfear of needles, understanding what is involved, childcare and time issues. However additional barriers for people of Black heritage include: 

  • Belief there is enough blood  
  • Lack of awareness around the need for ethnically matched blood and organs 
  • Trust in the state  
  • Information and concerns about low iron levels 
  • A belief that they are not eligible to donate and that their blood is not needed
  • Unaware of where to donate and less likely to attend unfamiliar venues
  • Concerns and suspicions around hygiene / infection / safety / testing / use of data
  • Family influences, dynamics and power structures. 

Further questions 

If you have any further questions about the scheme, please send them to community.funding@nhsbt.nhs.uk and we will respond as soon as we can.