The NHS is to introduce blood group genotyping for thousands of patients living with two diseases that require regular transfusions, it was announced last week.
NHS England said it would be the first healthcare system in the world to use the process for patients with thalassaemia and sickle cell disease.
It says the programme will reduce the risk of severe side-effects that affect up to 17% of patients because of inadequately matched blood.
A grant of £1 million will enable NHS Blood and Transplant to provide blood group genotyping in its specialised molecular diagnostics laboratory.
Dr Andrea Harmer, genomics programme director at NHS Blood and Transplant, 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.”
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.”
John James, Chief Executive of the Sickle Cell Society, said: “Its use of cutting-edge technology to help reduce the side effects people can experience when they receive a transfusion will make a huge difference for people living with sickle cell disease and help tackle the health inequalities experienced by the families and communities we support.”
Roanna Maharaj, vice chair at The UK Thalassaemia Society, said: “We wholeheartedly support the combined progressive decision of NHS England and NHS Blood and Transplant in offering blood group genotyping to all individuals living with transfusion-dependent thalassaemia in England.
“This new initiative will help ensure individuals living with transfusion-dependent thalassaemia receive blood transfusions that are safer, more effective, and better matched to their needs to reduce the risk of transfusion reactions and other complications.
“It is a step in the right direction towards improving the quality of life for those living with thalassaemia and we commend the effort.”
Source: NHS England
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