The scale of the donation crisis in BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) communities is growing, despite ongoing activities to arrest it. To find a solution, in February 2018 Labour MP Eleanor Smith launched a review into BAME blood, stem cell and organ donation in England. The review took place over four months and included consulting with NHS Blood and Transplant, charities, community organisations, medical professionals and donors themselves.
The review has four main findings:
- The role of local, national and international. The work of local organisations is the most effective way of spreading awareness about donation, but they have very little help to sustain or grow their work. The support of national organisations is key in improving and facilitating this. Meanwhile, growing relationships with international organisations is crucial in accessing donations from across the world, and widening knowledge of best practice.
- Normalisation. In cultures that see donation as a normal act, and openly discuss it, donation rates are significantly higher. There are several key ways to begin normalising the idea of being a donor.
- Young people and education. Working with younger people is extremely effective: it is the best way of securing sustainable donations and raising donation rates in the long term. Formalising this within the education system would prevent myths and misinformation spreading, and move the idea of donation from an oddity to something commonplace.
- Race, culture and religion. The importance of understanding, and being sensitive to, the differing perceptions of donation in different races, cultures and religions cannot be understated. This is crucial in effectively planning what will work for each group.
The review delivers a number of recommendations which attempt to solve the declining numbers of BAME donors. They address current structural and cultural barriers and call on individuals, communities, NHS bodies and the Government to act.
The recommendations include:
- A long term government strategy, co-produced with organisations who work in communities, to increase BAME donation rates.
- Cultural competence training for members of the medical workforce who come into contact with potential donors.
- A formalised commissioning process for BAME community organisations, allowing them to access funding to grow and continue their work amongst the hardest-to-reach communities.
- Donation issues and processes to be added to the national curriculum, to ensure younger people have access to accurate information.
- A specific public health campaign targeting BAME communities, which is developed and co-produced by the community itself.
Eleanor Smith MP, Chair of the BAME blood, stem cell and organ donation review said:
“I am proud to have lead this review into donation in the Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority communities. In blood alone it is estimated that we will need 27,000 new donors in 2018/19 from BAME communities just to keep up with the growing demand. I’ve heard from community organisations, medical professionals, charities and donors themselves about the silent crisis BAME communities are facing. This issue needs to be a national priority as this injustice and unfairness can go on no longer. I’m calling on the Government, NHS bodies, communities and individuals to do more by not only highlighting the scale of the problem, but implementing the review’s recommendations immediately so that we can start saving more lives.”