Today was at Filton to welcome the High Commissioner of Jamaica, Her Excellency Aloun Ndombet-Assamba. We were showing her around the manufacturing part of Filton and she was there to thank us for working with two charities to deliver one of our blood collection mobiles and some processing equipment to the Jamaican National Blood Service. We invited a number of guests from the black communities in Bristol and London to share the day with us.

It was fantastic to hear about the work that Rudi Page and his team from RAFFA, a diaspora led charity that brings together governments and local volunteers to help develop a number of Caribbean and African countries. It was also great to acknowledge the work of NHSBT’s very own Dapo Odumeru who founded the charity Blood 4 Life. Dapo has worked in a number of countries re-cycling NHSBT equipment to help set up new blood services. There are many people alive today because of the great work Rudi, Dapo and their colleagues have done.

We can sometimes take for granted the constant supply of safe blood in this country, but I was saddened to hear that in Jamaica as in a number of countries, they do not yet have a consistent altruistic donation programme – operations rely on you rounding up relatives to give blood to make deposits in the bank beforehand.

The event included a series of tours around the manufacturing floor at Filton – thank you to Sonja Long for great organisation of a complex event and every one at Filton for helping with the tours and tolerating the interruptions so gracefully – it was for a good cause.

We used the event to talk to the press and the assembled community groups about the launch of a joint campaign with NHSBT, RAFFA and the Kiwanis Club of Brixton to try and recruit more black donors both in this county and in Jamaica. In Jamaica it is about building up to a self-sufficient blood system, here we need more black donors to help us support sickle cell patients – each month we supply 2000 units of blood to sickle cell patients and less than half is a full match. This means they run the risk of creating antibodies, which in the longer term limits the number of transfusion that can tolerate, which shorten lives.

I finished my opening speech with the simple request of all present to talk about what they had seen and heard, and try and recruit at least one new black donor.

I have always been concerned about the lack of black blood donors so it was great to hear about so many people working with us, coming from a range of different communities, charities and Churches with the aim of collecting more blood, thereby saving more lives – it feels like we are making progress on this important topic, but lots of work still to do!

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