“We’ve got an opportunity to support other parts of the country where there are fewer donors and there’s a big need,” the Mayor said.
By Noah Vickers, Local Democracy Reporter
London mayor Sadiq Khan has urged black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people to donate blood, to boost supplies for lifesaving treatments.
Mr Khan gave blood himself at City Hall on Tuesday morning in a bid to set to an example for BAME people, who come forward to donate in disproportionately small numbers.
Donors of black heritage are particularly needed across the UK to help patients with sickle cell disease – the country’s fastest growing genetic blood disorder.
Mr Khan said: “It’s really important for Londoners to realise there is a problem with a lack of blood in our city, [and] there’s a problem with a lack of blood donors across the country.
“When you bear in mind that a disproportionate number of our city is black, Asian and minority ethnic, we’ve got an opportunity to support other parts of the country where there are fewer donors and there’s a big need.
“The point I’d make very simply is if someone like me can give blood, it shows how easy it is. I can’t think of an easier and safer way to save people’s lives than by giving blood.”
The Mayor was joined by London Assembly Members and City Hall staff, with Mr Khan saying it was “great to see them stepping up to support our city”.
He was also joined by doctors and TV personalities Dr Emeka Okorocha and Dr Amos Ogunkoya, from BBC’s The Traitors.
Dr Ogunkoya said he hoped the Mayor’s high profile would help encourage more BAME blood donors.
“It’s important, because I think our leaders should lead by example,” he said.
“If you’re saying that there’s a health crisis, and one of your leaders is a person of ethnic minority and he’s showing he’s willing to donate, I think that’s going to inspire a lot of people.”
Dr Ogunkoya added that he thought the disproportionately low number of BAME donors was due to “ a historical distrust of health services”.
“A lot of people don’t believe the health services are there for them,” he said.
“There are worries about what people are going to use their blood for, wrong beliefs about DNA harvesting, stuff like that.
“A lot of people don’t realise that it helps everyone, but it also helps people in your community as well, and how disproportionately people in our community are affected by these issues and don’t get the donors they need.”
Mr Khan agreed, saying: “One of the things that we saw during the pandemic, with the vaccine hesitancy, is often there are these myths that can deter and scare people from taking the vaccine or doing the right thing.
“Similarly, unfortunately, there are myths that need busting in relation to blood donations, [and] organ donations.”
Sabrina Jarrett, of the African Caribbean Leukaemia Trust, said: “What we want is not just for white, northern Europeans, when they look on the stem cell register, to find their match – we want that to be a possibility for everyone.”
Looking at donations required by people of all ethnicities across the UK, around 135,000 new donors are needed every year to ensure there is enough blood available to patients.
In London, 42,000 new blood donors are needed by March 2023 to keep supplying blood for lifesaving treatments.
To become a donor, visit https://www.blood.co.uk/