Singer and TV Personality Alesha Dixon and Homeland star David Harewood have thrown their weight behind a new drive to increase life-saving organ and stem cell donations.
Leading charities and organisations in the field including the African Caribbean Leukaemia Trust, the National Kidney Federation, NHS Blood and Transplant and the South Asian Health Foundation have come together to increase donor numbers in Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) populations.
The group hopes to change attitudes to donation and transplantation within these communities.
Every year, 180 people from these ethnic groups die waiting for a transplant because of a chronic shortage of suitable organs. Alesha and David are joining forces with stars including soul singer Beverley Knight and Bond film star Colin Salmon to back the campaign for more donors.
The new group, the National BAME Transplant Alliance, will bring together people and organisations with in-depth knowledge of their communities to address the problem of low donor and transplant rates.
People from these communities are three times more likely to need an organ transplant than the rest of the population – but under two per cent have recorded their wishes on the NHS Organ Donor Register.
While around 90 per cent of white patients in need of a bone marrow transplant may find a match, for the BAME population the matching rates can be as low as 40 per cent.
Members of the National BAME Transplant Alliance will work to raise awareness of current inequalities and promote the importance of donation. They will also support other charities and give them advice on how to get the message across. The ultimate goal is to save more lives.
As part of broader plans to improve stem cell transplant services, the government will avail an extra £4 million in the coming year. A substantial part of this will be geared towards increasing stem cell donation from black and minority ethnic communities.
Public Health Minister Anne Milton said: “Giving an organ or bone marrow is a chance to save someone’s life. It is tragic that nearly 200 people from Black, Asian or Ethnic Minority backgrounds die each year waiting for an organ. Lower levels of donation means those in need of an organ transplant often wait up to twice as long.
“We want everyone to join the NHS Organ Donor Register and make the time to discuss their wishes with family members so they know what to do. With the backing of stars like Alesha Dixon and David Harewood, we want potential donors to come forward and show they are life-savers.”
Ms. Dixon said she was honoured to have been asked to be a Donor Ambassador. “Black and Asian people are dying because there are not enough people from our communities coming forward as stem cell or organ donors. We can change this.”
Actor Harewood who is a stem cell donor, said he knows “how important it is to for people from black and other ethnic minority backgrounds to come forward and sign up to donate their blood, organs and stem cells. By becoming a donor, you have the potential not only to save someone’s life, but to change the lives of their friends and family too.”
National Transplant Week takes place from 9th to 15th July and this year the theme is ‘Pass it on’ which is about encouraging people to sign up to the NHS Organ Donor Register and to tell their families of their wishes. Visit the Transplant Week website for more information.