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Why Brummie blood disorder patients no longer have to travel to London for latest treatment

City Hospital becomes regional specialist centre for treatment of sickel cell and thalassaemia in a move championed by acclaimed poet Benjamin Zephaniah

Benjamin Zephaniah

Patients with two inherited blood disorders no longer have to travel more than 100 miles to London to get pioneering treatment following the introduction of a new service at City Hospital, Birmingham.

Both Sickle Cell and Thalassaemia are inherited conditions affecting the red blood cells. Patients are normally of African, Caribbean, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and Asian background.

Now the Sandwell and City Hospitals in collaboration with NHS Blood and Transplant and the West Midlands Specialist Commissioners, has officially launched the regional specialist centre for haemoglobinopathy - offering patients a complete blood transfusion.

Acclaimed poet Benjamin Zephaniah said: “Haemoglobinopathy. That’s such a difficult word for a dyslexic like me to say with a Jamaican accent, but it’s an important word.

"With the City Hospital in Birmingham being designated the regional specialist centre for haemoglobinopathy, it means that members of my family, and other Sickle Cell and Thalassemia patients needing treatment, won’t have to travel hundreds of miles to get it. I am so proud that some caring NHS workers have manage to get this for the people of my city."

City Hospital, in Winson Green.

This procedure removes all of the patients abnormally shaped red blood cells and replaces them with donated blood, using a technique called apheresis. Patients have received more than 500 units of blood since the service started.

Chief Executive the hospital trust Toby Lewis said: "These issues matter to our patients and it is fantastic that we are able to improve local specialised services in the heart of Birmingham and the Black Country."

The treatment relies on blood donors and people from the same ethnic background are more likely to be a match. Ian Trenholm, chief executive at NHS Blood and Transplant said: “We really do need more black and Asian blood donors to meet the needs of patients.

"Many people think that blood is only needed in an accident or emergency situation but people with Sickle Cell Disease often need blood transfusions on a regular basis just to stay alive.”

There are more than 15,000 people with Sickle Cell and 2000 with Thalassaemia in the UK. One of these is Mohammad Farooq. He said: “It is the NHS at its best, and allows me and my fellow patients to continue our daily lives with minimum disruption, and, therefore, be able to contribute to society.”

What is Sickle Cell?

It is a serious blood disease which runs in families.

It affects the way blood carries oxygen around the body.

Red blood cells can become stiff and get stuck when they try to go through veins. This means that oxygen cannot get around the body.

Sufferers can have very serious pain. They can also have problems with other parts of their body and will need medicines to protect against infection all their lives.

What is Thalassaemia?

Thalassaemia is the name for a group of inherited conditions that affect haemoglobin.

People with the condition produce either no or too little haemoglobin which is used by red blood cells to carry oxygen around the body and this can make them very anaemic.

The condition can also cause excess iron in the body, leading to problems with the heart, liver and hormone levels if left untreated.

Some people experience other problems such as delayed growth, weak and fragile bones and reduced fertility.

To sign up as a new blood donor, visit: www.blood.co.uk or call 0300 123 23 23.

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