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England’s biggest blood donation centre in the heart of London has been expanded and will reopen on Christmas Eve
NHS Blood and Transplant has completed a comprehensive expansion and refurbishment of the West End Donor Centre, the biggest blood donor centre in England, in time for a reopening on Christmas Eve.1
The donor centre has been transformed as the centrepiece of a five-year strategy to increase blood donation in the capital. Currently, only 0.92% of Londoners give blood, which means Londoners are 38% less likely to be a donor than the English average.2
NHS Blood and Transplant is making the investment mainly because of the rapid rise in cases of the rare blood disorder sickle cell disease. Many sickle patients need Ro group blood. Over the past three years, there has been an 80% increase in requests for Ro to NHSBT’s London blood stock units.3
The West End Donor Centre refurbishment, which took three months, saw the centre being modernised to make it brighter and more comfortable for donors with an increase in the number of donation chairs from six to nine, creating 20,000 more chances to donate a year.
Appointments are also being added at mobile sessions and at the Tooting donor centre. By June 2019, the number of blood donation appointments available across London will have increased by around a third4. By 2021, there will be around 100,000 more blood donation appointments than in 2018.5
NHS Blood and Transplant needs new young donors to fill the appointments, especially new black donors. Black people are more likely to have sickle cell disease and more likely to have the blood groups sickle cell patients need for their treatment. Around 45% of all potential Ro blood donors in the country live in London.
The new West End Donor Centre is the highlight of the expansion and has been refurbished to be bright and modern to appeal to young donors. The centre will provide a comfortable donation experience with free Wi-Fi and plug sockets for people to charge their phones.
Sandra Sowerby, West End Donor Centre Manager: “We need new donors to come forward from all the different blood groups but there is a particular need in London for new black donors because they are more likely to have the rarer blood groups that sickle cell patients need.
“Giving blood is simple and easy to do. The donation itself takes 5-10 minutes and each donation can save or improve up to three lives. It’s lovely to be able to reopen in time for Christmas – giving blood is an amazing gift. The centre is bright and modern but there’s still free tea, coffee and biscuits for donors.”
Sickle cell disease is more common in black people. The patient’s blood cells form into a sickle shape and they get stuck in blood vessels, causing extreme pain, life-threatening infections and other complications such as stroke or loss of vision. Over 7,000 sickle cell patients live in London – more than double the rest of the country combined – and it is the fastest growing genetic disease in the country.
Shaylah Haider, aged nine, a sickle cell patient from New Barnet, received blood transfusions every three weeks since birth until a life changing stem cell transplant from mum Leila in March 2016.
Following her transplant Shaylah still attends St Mary’s Hospital for regular blood tests and occasional transfusions.
This September, Shaylah started school after two years of being out of school due to ill health.
Leila Haider, Shaylah’s mum, said: “She has always been a tough cookie and will continue to be a fighter. Blood transfusions have saved Shaylah’s life on so many occasions I can’t even count them.
Above: Shaylah after surgery at Great Ormond Street Hospital before Christmas 2015, and at her school talent show in 2018
“She usually needed them the most over the winter months. Without donors, I honestly don’t know if she would be with us today. I am so happy than there will be chances to donate in London to help patients like Shaylah.”
Angel Salami, aged six, a sickle cell patient from Wandsworth, received a lifesaving blood transfusion in June 2018.
Angel was turned blue and struggling to breathe and her parents rushed her to A&E at St Georges Hospital in Tooting. Her body had stopped making red blood cells and her haemoglobin had dropped to a dangerous level which could have led to organ failure and even death.
Angel will now be able to celebrate Christmas with her nine-year-old brother Amari thanks to the kindness of a blood donor she will never meet.
Kehinde Salami, Angel’s father, said: “Without the help of a hero in the form of a blood donor Angel wouldn’t be alive today.
“That is the incredible reality of giving blood. I would encourage Londoners to register and donate to help children across the capital like Angel.”
Shalona Willie, 31, from Hackney, is a mum to three and lives with sickle cell disease. Shalona has needed blood transfusions to treat her sickle cell and for the birth of her daughter Harmony, aged 9, and twins Milan and Savanna now 15 months. Shalona said: “Those who give blood are the real super heroes. Without them, I wouldn’t be able to experience motherhood.”
Hannah Whittam, 25, from New Southgate, was born with cystic fibrosis and received a very rare heart and lung transplant at Great Ormond Street Hospital just after Christmas 14 years ago. Hannah received life-saving blood during her transplant.
Hannah said: “Blood donors have saved my life. I wouldn’t be here without the blood I received during my transplant, there are no words to express how thankful I am. Sadly there are still not enough blood donors in London. Please everybody sign up and donate blood. Every donation counts, and you will be saving someone’s life.”
Above: Hannah Whittam in intensive care following transplant, and Hannah in 2018.
NHSBT’s wider London five-year strategy includes the following expansions over the next two years:
Mike Stredder, Director of Blood Donation for NHS Blood and Transplant: “We are greatly increasing the number of opportunities for Londoners to donate and save lives.
“The increase in capacity at the West End Donor Centre is a key step in adding 1,700 additional blood donation appointments per week in London. There is an urgent need for more black blood donors to come forward and donate to enable hospitals to provide a closer match to patients.”