Leukaemia patient received lifesaving transplant thanks to selfless NHSBT staff who battled through the bad weather to deliver stem cells

Geoff White and Sue Bartlett drove three hours from Southampton to deliver cells

9 March 2018

Biomedical scientists Geoff White and Sue Bartlett

Biomedical Scientists Geoff White and Sue Bartlett, drove the three-hour journey from their base in Southampton – where the stem cells had been processed – to St George’s Hospital in Tooting where the patient was being prepped for their scheduled transplant.

The stem cells are usually delivered by contractors, but due to the snow and bad weather the drivers had been advised to stay off the roads. So, not wanting to let the patient down, Geoff and Sue decided to wrap themselves up and hit the road with the precious stem cells and emergency supplies of tea and cake!

“A colleague of ours had just had a birthday so there was lots of cake in the office”, said Sue. “We made sure we took plenty of that and hot drinks to get us through the journey.”


Sue continued: “When we got to St George’s we handed over the stem cells to the transplant nurse who was surprised to see us. The patient was at the hospital having had their last round of chemo ready for the transplant, so it was imperative that the stem cells got there.”

Thankfully, the transplant was a success and Sue and Geoff made it back to Southampton in one piece following their heroic journey cross country.

Michaela Mayhew, Stem Cell Transplant Nurse Coordinator at St George’s, said: “Geoff and Sue truly went the extra mile for our patients by hand delivering the stem cells last week during the bad weather spell. We really appreciate their support and willingness to get them here when other transport couldn’t. Thank you so much!”

The recent severe weather meant that NHS Blood and Transplant also took a hit on blood and platelet stocks – which meant it lost 6 - 7000 donations, the equivalent of a whole day’s stock. So, it is appealing for donors of all blood groups to walk into one of the fixed site donor centres or to book an appointment. Extra appointments have been added to some existing sessions throughout March and extra sessions are also being planned to help boost stock levels. Please visit our Give Blood website to find out where the extra sessions are.

You can get more information on all aspects of donation by calling the Donor Line on 0300 123 23 23 or visiting www.blood.co.uk

It’s quick and easy to register to become a blood donor. Visit www.blood.co.uk or download the app by searching ‘NHSGiveBlood’ in the app store. You can also call the Donor Line on 0300 123 23 23 or visit www.blood.co.uk

You can donate platelets at your nearest donor centre. If you already give blood, ask about platelet donation at your next appointment.


  • For additional information please contact the NHSBT Press Office on 01923 367600 or email pressoffice@nhsbt.nhs.uk
  • For urgent out of hours enquiries please call 0117 969 2444

Notes to editors

  • NHS Blood and Transplant is a joint England and Wales Special Health Authority. We are responsible for ensuring a safe and efficient supply of blood and associated services to the NHS in England. We are also the organ donation organisation for the UK and are responsible for matching and allocating donated organs.
  • We are an essential part of the NHS and take pride in saving and improving lives by making the most of every voluntary donation, from blood and organs to tissues and stem cells.
  • Our work would not be possible without our donors - ordinary people doing extraordinary things by saving and improving the lives of others.
  • To find out more visit: www.nhsbt.nhs.uk
  • Blood donors can search for sessions, book appointments, change/cancel their appointments and change their contact details in real time at blood.co.uk
  • There are apps available for Android, Windows and Apple Smartphone and tablet devices which enable donors to search for sessions based on their location and book and manage appointments.
  • Our donor line - 0300 123 23 23 - is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week with all calls charged at the standard local rate, even from mobile phones
  • NHS Blood and Transplant needs to collect 1.5 million units of blood each year to meet the needs of patients across England. It’s important that we collect the right amount of each blood group at the right time to meet patient needs. 
  • There are four main blood groups – O, A, B and AB. Group O is the most common and therefore the most in demand. A regular supply of blood is vital – red cells last 35 days and platelets only 7 days
  • The overall demand for blood is falling by 3-4% per year.  This is due to improvements in clinical practice and is a trend that is being seen around the world. The drop in demand for blood is also thanks to our work with hospitals to ensure blood is used appropriately for patients.
  • We need nearly 200,000 new blood donors each year to replace those who no longer donate for reasons such as ill health, pregnancy or foreign travel and to ensure we have the right mix of blood groups to match patient needs in the future
  • Some blood groups, such as O negative (the universal blood group), A negative and B negative are particularly vulnerable to shortfalls. So we want people with those blood groups to donate as regularly as they can.  We also need more black African, black Caribbean, mixed race and South Asian people to become blood donors to reflect the ethnic diversity of patients
  • Female whole blood donors can give blood every 16 weeks, while male blood donors must wait 12 weeks between donations. Platelets can be donated every 2 weeks.