31 January 2024

People in England with sickle cell disorder and thalassaemia will have NHS access to the world’s first blood group genotyping test, it has been announced.

NHS England said the testing will transform care for patients living with sickle cell disorder and thalassaemia and enable accurate matching for people who need transfusions.

As part of the new system, people with sickle cell, thalassaemia and transfusion-dependent rare inherited anaemias will be invited to have blood group genotyping test taken alongside their routine hospital blood tests. Other patients to benefit will include those with Diamond Blackfan anaemia. About 18,000 people are expected to benefit from the improvements in transfusion matching.

Professor Bola Owolabi, director of the National Healthcare Inequalities Improvement Programme at NHS England, said: “This world-first test is yet another example of the NHS leading the way to transform care and improve outcomes and quality of life for thousands of patients with sickle cell disorder and thalassaemia.

“Being able to provide high-quality and more personalised care to people with inherited blood disorders is an important step forward in helping to reduce health inequalities and this innovative test will greatly improve quality of life for people living with these disorders. I urge those eligible to ask their clinical teams about the test and to accept if they are invited to take part.”

Sara Trompeter, NHS Blood and Transplant consultant haematologist, added: “Knowing the extended blood groups of patients, alongside the similar programme in the donor population, is a necessary step to improve the ability to match blood for our patients, improving transfusion care.

“The initiative will rely on patients attending hospital and having their blood sent to NHS Blood and Transplant for testing. We strongly encourage clinical and laboratory teams to work with patients to support this programme.”

The introduction of the test has been welcomed by the Sickle Cell Society, with chief executive John James describing it as a “remarkable stride towards achieving better blood matches for all those living with the condition.

“We urge individuals with sickle cell disorder to have the blood test as it will not only support more accurate treatment but also hold the potential to save more lives in the future,” he added.

This was echoed by Roanna Maharaj, public health, education and patient advocacy lead at the UK Thalassaemia Society, who said: “We wholeheartedly support the progressive decision to offer blood group genotyping to all individuals living with thalassaemia in England.

“This new initiative will help individuals living with thalassaemia receive blood transfusions that are better matched to their needs to reduce the risk of transfusion reactions and other serious complications.”

Source: NHS England


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