I was there..

Hi, I’m Sarah and I work in the Media and PR team here at NHS Blood and Transplant. In this blog, I hope to give you an insight into the work we do to promote blood, organ, tissue and bone marrow donation on a daily basis.

Today as I write this post I am reminded why I like my job so much. There is a definite buzz in the office as we settle down to watch the lunchtime news. There are not a lot of PR jobs where you can say that a big spread of positive coverage can directly help to save lives, but in this job we often see and hear about the positive effect of our media efforts.
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As an organisation our work saves the lives of people all across the UK. However, we would not be able to do any of the work that we do, without the help of our dedicated donors and their families. We are wholly dependant on their generosity and compassion.

In order to meet the needs of patients in England and North Wales, we need more than 7,000 people to attend a blood donation session every day. While we need donors from all communities to come forward and donate, donors from some communities, such as the black community, are particularly needed.
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In England around five per cent of the population are from the black community but only one per cent of the eligible black community donate blood. So this October, during Black History Month, we launched a new campaign to try and encourage more young black people to become the donors of the future.

The campaign, called I was there, was launched on the 13 October and will run for four weeks. The target audience is  black Londoners, who account for around half of England’s black population.

We will be using social media and radio advertising to ask people to get involved and help save lives. In addition to this, we will also be working closely with faith and community groups to help raise awareness and increase donor numbers.

Some rare blood types are more common among the black community and blood is not just used to treat accident and emergency patients, which is what people often think. Blood disorders such as sickle cell anaemia are more likely to affect the black community and patients often need regular blood transfusions to survive. Ideally this blood would come from someone with a similar ethnic background.
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On the 14 October, as a result of a large amount of hard work from the newest member of the media and PR team Maggie Stratton, our campaign was supported by a significant amount of media coverage. In the morning LBC interviewed Theo Clarke, National BAME Marketing Manager and BBC Radio London interviewed blood donor Vanessa Ageymang to find out more about her reasons for donating blood.

Both BBC and ITV lunchtime news showed interviews with sickle cell anaemia sufferer Shalona Willie and the evening news followed suit. Shalona knows only too well how important blood donation is as she needed a life saving transfusion at 38 weeks pregnant.

Orin Lewis, Chief Executive of the ACLT (African Caribbean Leukaemia Trust) also lent his support to the campaign by donating blood for the cameras and discussing the challenge around BAME donation.

We couldn’t have asked for a better spread of broadcast coverage and we hope that with this campaign we are able to reach the young black donors that we so desperately need.


Vanessa Agyemang, 25, from Greenwich, who began giving blood two years ago.

Vanessa says: “I’ve always enjoyed giving, and this is close to my heart as I know many people who suffer from sickle cell and the pain and struggle they go through on a daily basis. Giving blood is a painless activity in helping to save many lives.”
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Shalona has sickle cell anaemia and owes both her life and that of her daughter, Harmony, to the generosity of blood donors. Five years ago, the 27-year-old fell critically ill while 38 weeks pregnant.

Shalona Willie and daughter Harmony

Shalona Willie and her daughter Harmony.

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