Figures released today to mark the end of Sickle Cell Awareness Month (September) show that more and more black people in Luton are responding to the urgent need for donors.
Over the past year, 25% more black people have started donating blood in Luton. There is a donor centre in Bridge Street and mobile donation sessions are held in community venues such as church halls.
NHS Blood and Transplant is now urging more black people in Luton to register as blood donors and save lives because the overall shortage of donors remains.
People supporting the campaign include Mohammud Moiden, of Kingsway in Luton, who is one of the minority donors from Luton who has given blood the most times.
Mohammud, aged 50, a nurse, has donated 51 times and is a regular at Luton Blood Donor Centre. Each donation can save up to three lives so he has helped up to 153 people.
Mohammud, who is originally from Mauritius and is of African Asian origin, said his Muslim faith inspired him to start giving blood.
“I was walking in the town and I just thought, ‘I don't have money or materials to give as charity but I still want to do something charitable, and by giving blood I can help people.”
Mohammud saw blood saving lives when he worked at Luton and Dunstable Hospital. He now works at a GP surgery.
He said: “Giving blood makes me feel better. I enjoyed the experience, I know I am helping people, and the staff are always pleasant.”
He is aware of the need for more black and Asian donors to help people with sickle cell and thalassaemia, two blood disorders more prevalent in the black and Asian communities.
Mohammud added: “I feel that if you are prepared to accept a blood transfusion you should be prepared to give blood.”
People from the same ethnic background are more likely to have the same blood types. However the shortage of black blood donors makes it harder to find the best matched blood for black patients.
Nationally, new NHSBT figures show that the number of black blood donors has grown over the past three years in response to urgent appeals in recent years but the situation is still very serious - NHS Blood and Transplant still needs 40,000 new black donors nationally.
The red blood cells of sickle cell patients form into a sickle or crescent moon shape. These deformed cells can block blood vessels, causing agonising pain, and creating a risk of organ damage, stroke, and death.
Mike Stredder, Director of Blood Donation, said: “This month we can celebrate how more and more black people in Luton are saving lives by donating blood.
“However the shortage of black donors remains, which makes it harder to find the best matched blood for black people, putting them at greater risk of potentially life threatening transfusion reactions.
“Blood donation is quick, easy and safe and we urge people of black heritage in Luton to register as donors to help save lives.”
• Become a blood donor. Register today and book and appointment by calling 0300 123 23 23, downloading the GiveBloodNHS app, or visiting blood.co.uk