Black people in Greater London are being urged to donate blood and sign up to become organ donors as Black History Month comes to a close.

There is an urgent shortage of black donors and it is estimated that 40,000 more are needed across England to help people suffering from sickle cell anaemia, a blood disorder more common in black people, and to supply organs for black patients who need it.

Sickle cell anaemia is a genetic disease that causes the red blood cells to form a sickle shape, stick together and block blood flow. In severe cases the disease can cause loss of sight, organ failure and stroke.

People from the same ethnic background are more likely to have matching blood. The serious shortage of black donors makes it harder to find the best matched blood for these patients, putting them at a greater risk of potentially life-threatening transfusion reactions.

Mike Stredder, director of blood donation at NHS Blood and Transplant said: “More black people than ever are now donating blood. But we urgently need to recruit more donors from the black community to help the rising numbers of black patients who need closely matched blood.

“We are asking people with black heritage to make this Black History Month the time you commit to saving lives in your community. Please register as a blood donor and book an appointment to donate."

Equally, there are more black patients waiting for a lifesaving organ transplant in Greater London than patients of any other ethnic background and although black patients can receive an organ from a white donor, for many patients the best blood and tissue match will come from a donor of the same ethnicity.

Anthony Clarkson, director of organ donation and transplantation at NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “Black patients in desperate need of a transplant to save or drastically improve their lives are depending on people from their community to decide they want to be a lifesaving donor, either after they die or during their lifetime through living donation.

“Organ donation is a very dignified and respectful process. The donor is treated with the greatest care, and our nurses work with families to ensure all their faith and cultural considerations are respected.”

While being an organ donor is a personal choice, the majority of people who have recorded an opt-out decision on the NHS Organ Donor Register are from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds.

In spring 2020 the law around organ donation will be changing in both England and Scotland when a new opt out system will come into place where all adults in England will be considered an organ donor when they die, unless they had a recorded decision not to donate or are in one of the excluded groups.

Health minister Caroline Dinenage MP said: “It cannot be right that every year, hundreds of black people spend far longer than they should waiting for a transplant – with many tragically dying during this time.

“This Black History Month, I am calling on those from the black community to consider whether donation is appropriate for them or their families. This is a real chance at saving a person’s life and an incredible gift to a member of your community.”

To become a blood donor, book an appointment by calling 0300 123 23 23, downloading the GiveBloodNHS app or visiting

To become an organ donor, register your decision by visiting NHS Organ Donor Register at and share your decision with your family.