79% of lifesaving NHS Blood and Transplant statisticians are female

17 May 2024

The NHSBT stats team in a group pictureNHS Blood and Transplant is celebrating International Women in Maths Day (Sunday, May 12) by highlighting that most members of the statistics team who work on the life-saving research and modelling that underpins organ, stem cell and blood donation are female.

International Women in Maths Day is organised by European Women in Mathematics (EWM) and the Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM).

Out of the 34 members of the NHSBT Statistics team based at Stoke Gifford in Bristol, 27 are female. In contrast, according to the campaign group Stem Women, only around a third of people enrolling to higher courses in mathematical sciences are female.

Our statistics team

The NHSBT statistics team works on subjects such as:

  • Analysing data on transplant waiting times and post-transplant outcomes – this data informs how organs should then be allocated to people on the waiting list.
  • Designing and analysing clinical trials and other studies, to help inform best clinical practice.
  • Forecasting long-term demand for blood, so NHSBT knows how many donors to recruit, of which blood types, and which ethnicities.

The team’s work is crucial because there are not enough donated blood, organs and stem cells of the types needed. Improvements which make the best use of limited resources – such as the shortage of Ro blood, frozen cord blood stem cells, or donated organs – rely on good data and analytical evidence.

The team’s work has been used in dozens of world-leading projects and in papers published in prestigious peer reviewed journals such as The New England Journal of Medicine, The Lancet, Transplantation, The American Journal of Transplantation and more. Examples of their achievements include:

Tracey's story

Tracey Thompson, 43, of Todmorden, donated a kidney into the kidney sharing scheme in July 2018.

Tracey Thompson with her mum, SueThe scheme matches strangers using an algorithm based on work by the NHSBT statistics team in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Glasgow.

The donation enabled a chain of three transplants including one for her mum Sue Thompson, 69, from Doncaster, who had kidney failure.

“The sharing scheme is incredible, a wonderful chance for more people to get the transplant they need. My mum is doing amazing. I look at my scar as a reminder and it makes me so happy,” said Tracey, a job coach for young adults with learning disabilities and autism.

“I would say to the NHSBT maths people who created this – thanks! This is saving and improving the lives of so many people and having seen the difference it makes first hand to people, it is hard to put in to words the impact it fully has.”

Statistics to save lives

The statistics team's members include Dr Rosie Brown, Senior Statistician, 29, who has a BSc in Mathematics and Statistics and a PhD in using data to look at GP appointments and heart patients.Rosie Brown wearing a robe at her graduation

She said: “One of the most common responses when I talk to students about being a statistician at NHSBT is ‘I didn’t know that job even existed.’ I hope that by learning about it, they too might be inspired to consider it as a career.

“I really enjoy teamwork and problem solving and fortunately a lot of statistics involves all of these.

“I’m also using my maths skills for good – working in clinical trials means that the treatments we’re testing hopefully will impact patients’ lives for the better.

“As statisticians, we complete the analysis so always the first to know if something has worked, and it’s always really exciting to get to share the results with the trial team and work out what comes next.”