NHS to roll out test for inherited blood disorders

The NHS is set to roll out a new genetic blood-matching test for those living with sickle-cell disease or thalassemia. The test could reduce the painful side effects of transfusion treatments.

The NHS will become the first healthcare system in the world to provide blood group genotyping. This is a detailed DNA analysis of each patient’s blood group, to more accurately match those in need of transfusions to donated blood.

The programme will be delivered in partnership between NHS England and NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT).

It is hoped that the programme will help ensure patients receive the best treatment for them, reducing the risk/impact of reactions to donor blood and the development of antibodies that attack the donor blood cells.

There are around 17,000 people living with sickle cell disease in England and 250 new cases every year. These patients receive more than 10,000 units of blood per month through NHSBT.

There are around 800 people in England with Thalassemia and 50 new cases each year.

The most common way to treat both conditions is with a blood transfusion from donors. However around 17 per cent can experience bad side-effects after a transfusion because of inadequately matched blood. This can lead to transfusion reactions and make it difficult to find enough blood for future transfusions.

NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard said: “This fantastic new programme will significantly transform care for people living with sickle cell disorder and thalassemia – by using blood group genotyping, harmful side effects of transfusions will be reduced, hugely boosting patients’ quality of life.

“These conditions can be deeply debilitating and we know the barriers that this patient group can often face when accessing care – as this new programme shows, we are determined to continue to make improvements and do everything we possibly can to help these patients to lead normal lives.

“Throughout its 75 year history, the NHS has led the world in embracing innovation to transform care for our patients – this world first is just the latest example of this.”

Dr Andrea Harmer. NHS Blood and Transplant’s Genomics programme director, said: “An important part of our role is providing donated blood for patients who need transfusions but our work goes much beyond that, providing world class scientific services to make blood transfusions even safer.

“The new genotyping technology being used in this project was developed by an international consortium of which NHSBT is one of the founding members. It received critical support from the NIHR.

“Our scientific work can only help patients if we have blood donors and the demand for ethnically matched blood is on the rise. You can register as a donor at www.blood.co.uk.”


Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay