The coordinating voice for Black, Asian, Mixed Race and Minority Ethnic transplant donation

Black Lives Matter statement 

On behalf of the members of the NBTA (National BAME Transplant Alliance), we (Co-Chairs and Honorary President) would like to convey our thoughts and views on the present day inequalities facing people of colour in the UK and especially of those needing transplants and transfusions. For approx. the last 3 months on a daily basis we have all watched and observed in utter astonishment the public and social disenfranchisement of Black, Asian, Mixed Race and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people from many aspects of life whilst we have  individually and collectively fought against the unseen and seen enemies called COVID-19 and Racism. Many of our kinship (young and old) have been severely affected by being over exposed to the risks of diagnosis, infection and death of this virus, due to in part being essential workers in areas such as healthcare, social care and public transport. The current COVID-19 pandemic has for the first time enabled the wider public to learn about the many underlying and unequal health issues that envelope many BAME people in relation to living with stem cell, blood and organ donation related issues. In many cases these require time related (urgent) lifesaving stem cell or organ transplants and blood transfusions from under representative ethnic pools.

The severe reduction of stem cell and organ donations and transplants services due to the pandemic has resulted in further disadvantage to BAME patients waiting for these lifesaving opportunities.     As we begin to recover from the worst effects of the pandemic, we urge the NHS, NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) and hospitals to give priority addressing these inequalities in the context of Black Lives Matter.

In turn recent reports and reviews including the much publicised Public Health England review of the relative risk of COVID-19 to specific groups have highlighted the already publicly known disproportionality to people from BAME communities.

This Government Review (not Inquiry) was originally reported as being led by the esteemed Professor Kevin Fenton, Regional Director of Public Health at PHE and NHS London. It was stressed (at the highest levels of Government) that it would engage a wide range of external experts, independent advisors, and diverse constituencies and communities. Just as importantly, the review was supposed offer recommendations and policy guidance for employers, employees and the BAME community at large; outlining measures as how to best mitigate the disproportionate risk from COVID-19 that BAME people unarguably face, and measures that could be deployed with immediate effect.

Indeed it did include responses from over 4,000-plus organisations and individuals who supplied evidence for analysis. However on publication and up to this date little-to-no attempt has been made to explain or answer the fundamental question as to why the risk to BAME groups should be higher; furthermore in this publication the Government has removed a key section of the review (containing responses from the stakeholders and community engagement consultation process).

This related to discrimination, associated socio-economic factors and the resulting poorer life chances which were playing a part in the increased risk of COVID-19 to those from BAME backgrounds, and that this section was an annexe to the report it could also stand alone as a body of work in its own right.. In addition Professor Fenton’s role has reportedly been severely diminished and reduced in hierarchy whilst the perceived “whitewashed” review has now been handed over to the Government’s Equalities Minister to further establish and publish any recommendations.

This has resulted in essential time being lost in finding much needed answers to help protect the UK’s most vulnerable BAME communities from the ravages and threat of this virus, on top of the genetic and social health conditions which disproportionally affect BAME people.

The combination of BAME high risk to COVID-19 infection the clear lack of the requisite of urgency Government on top of the (urgent only) transplants situation has therefore resulted in an increasing belief that the political and medical infrastructure represented by the Government and the NHS does not truly value Black and Minority Ethnic lives in the same way as their white counterparts.            The fact that this is all happening within the world-wide media glare of the “Black Lives Matter” social pandemic virus based upon the existing and subliminal systemic institutional racism means that trust and confidence in the nation’s leaders and business/corporate influencers is being eroded very quickly on a daily basis by BAME people and communities. For example the recent NHS Blood and Transplant internal report into the racial tensions and difficulties that are present and playing out to its BAME staff at its Colindale Centre, highlights that these have been present for a number of years and have thus become ingrained. The Management behaviours and actions at Colindale have ultimately led to systemic racism becoming prevalent within it.

The need for equality in all aspects of life and work including health is now paramount, however this present day multi-pronged convergences of catastrophic events gives UK society and its key leaders and organisations at large a unique and unprecedented opportunity to make significant and real (not tokenistic) changes from the boardroom to the shop floor, enabling equality and diversity within UK society. In highlighting the above, the NBTA wishes it to be known that we will continue to assist all other key stakeholders such as NHS Blood and Transplant in planning, devising and implementing a new open, transparent and trustworthy set of stem cell, blood and organ donation strategies which are able to fully deliver (internal and external) equitable and realistically achievable services to all users, including the various social and religious orientated BAME communities.

Overall the message is clear; BAME people have had enough lip service. People who are ill informed need to read & learn about how society including health has been shaped by Black and Minority Ethnic history including for example Charles Drew, MD, who was the first physician to use blood plasma to store blood for transfusion or Daniel Hale Williams, MD, one of the first physicians to perform a successful open-heart surgery. Going forward, apologies are not required, we need urgent action now, with a clear understanding that equality of life and health opportunities is for everyone.

Orin Lewis OBE
NBTA Chair
Rita Chadha
NBTA Independent Chair
Kirit Modi
Honorary President