29 June 2022

NHS England has launched a campaign to boost public awareness of the key signs and symptoms sickle cell disorder.

'Can you tell it’s sickle cell?' aims to educate emergency care staff, carers and the wider public, while a new NHS training programme will help staff better understand the condition, crises, and how to care for patients.

The campaign is launched less than a year after the NHS rolled out crizanlizumab – the first sickle cell treatment in 20 years – which is expected to reduce the number of times a sickle cell patient needs to go to A&E by two fifths.

Speaking at the NHS Confederation conference, NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard said: “I heard really powerful stories from patients living with sickle cell disease about their experience of the wider health service, how they have been treated appallingly when they have needed to go to A&E, so much so that they told me they have to think twice and often delay coming forward for care when they need it.

“This brings us back around to tackling health inequalities. One of the patients I spoke to asked: ‘If I was white, would I be treated like this?’ She didn’t trust that the NHS as a whole viewed her as an equal. That has to change.

“I’m determined that we need to make things better for this particular patient group, but this also speaks to how we need to improve experiences for all patients, earn the trust needed to ensure that every individual feels able to seek help when they need it, and feels they will be listened to if they tell us something isn’t right.”

NHS England director of health inequalities Dr Bola Owolabi added: “We know that sickle cell disease is a debilitating illness that thousands of people live with, but has historically been poorly understood, which is why the NHS is launching this brand new campaign and asking: ‘can you tell it’s sickle cell?’

“It is vital that we continue to tackle healthcare inequalities head on and this means improving care and experience of NHS services, access to the latest, cutting-edge treatments, and proactively raising awareness of conditions such as sickle cell disorder that disproportionately affect some of our communities.”

Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said: “This new campaign will help to raise awareness amongst the public and healthcare professionals to ensure that sickle cell disease patients get the treatment and support they need, when they need it and later this year we will set out further action we are taking to tackle health disparities.

“We urgently need more Black blood donors to come forward as they are more likely to have Ro blood, which is vital to treat sickle cell disorder – I urge anyone who is eligible to register to donate.”

John James, chief executive at Sickle Cell Society said: “It is really great to see the first NHS national campaign for sickle cell disorder go live. Sickle cell disorder is a debilitating condition affecting individuals and families.

“We need to significantly raise awareness of this disorder. Only through increased awareness and education amongst health care professionals, and the general public, will we start to see improvement in patient experiences and ultimately their health outcomes.”

Link: https://www.england.nhs.uk/2022/06/nhs-launches-lifesaving-sickle-cell-campaign/

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