A new centre for the collection of vital cord blood donations will be opened on Monday by Public Health Minister, Gillian Merron.

NHS Blood and Transplant and St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust have established the fifth site at which mothers can donate cord blood. Cord blood is the blood that remains in the placenta and umbilical cord after a baby is born. It is rich in stem cells and can be provided to help patients whose bone marrow is not working properly due to disease or medical treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Donations to the NHS Cord Blood Bank are given on a voluntary basis and can potentially help any patient in need of a cord blood transplant.

The NHS Cord Blood Bank, which is part of NHS Blood and Transplant, (NHSBT) has four other sites across London and the south-east, chosen for the broad ethnic mix of the community they serve. This increases the chances of finding a suitable tissue type match for those seriously ill patients requiring a cord blood transplant.

The Minister will open the new facility and meet trained NHSBT cord blood collection staff, clinicians, mothers-to-be and donors in the maternity unit. Rebecca Khan, is a cord blood donor and mother of two from Borehamwood, Hertfordshire. Donor ethnicity is an important consideration, when matching cord blood donations to a potential recipient, as it increases the chance of a possible match. Rebecca and husband Kyle’s diverse ethnic heritage of Greek and English; and Trinidadian and Scottish parents means her cord blood donation is unique.

Lynda Hamlyn, Chief Executive of NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “The opening of this fifth cord blood collection site will give more mothers the opportunity to donate and provide hope for those patients where no bone marrow match can be found.”

“The location of St George’s allows collection from a large multi-ethnic community which is of great benefit as patients have a much better chance of finding a good match from donors of the same ethnic background.”

“The stem cells that come from cord blood are similar to those found in bone marrow and are used in many different ways including treatment for illnesses such as leukaemia but are also used in research to help develop new treatments.”

David Astley, Chief Executive of St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The donations made here really will save lives and St George’s is very proud to be working in partnership with NHSBT to provide this hugely important facility. Based in the heart of Tooting, St George’s serves a very diverse population and is well placed to host the new unit.”

There are currently more than 13,973 units of cord blood stored in the NHS Cord Blood Bank, making it the fourth largest single blood bank in the world. At present 40% of the cord blood units stored are from ethnic minority donors, which makes it the second highest percentage worldwide of rare tissue types in a cord blood bank and increasing the chances of people from a BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) background finding a match.

Since its creation in 1996, the NHS Cord Blood Bank has issued 276 units to treat patients in 22 countries and so far 53 units have been issued this year alone.

Media opportunity – the Minister will tour the new facility at noon. There will be an opportunity for photos and interviews at 12.45pm with Public Health Minister Gillian Merron, Lynda Hamlyn, Chief Executive NHS Blood and Transplant and Mike Bailey, Deputy Chief Executive from St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

For additional information please contact NHSBT press office on 0117 969 2444. For out of hours enquiries please call: 07659 133583.

Notes to editors

  1. NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) is a Special Health Authority in the NHS. It is the organ donor organisation for the UK and is responsible for matching and allocating donated organs. Its remit also includes the provision of a reliable, efficient supply of blood and associated services to the NHS.
  2. The NHS Cord Blood Bank was set up in 1996 to collect, process, store and supply cord blood. It is a public cord blood bank and part of the NHS. More information about the work of the Cord Blood Bank is available at cord.blood.co.uk
  3. Cord blood collected for the NHS Cord Blood Bank is collected by dedicated and trained staff. It is collected from the following hospitals – Barnet General, Northwick Park, Watford Luton and Dunstable and St George’s.
  4. The first unrelated transplant (the patient was not related to the donor) occurred in February 1998. The recipient, a five-year-old child with acute leukaemia, remains healthy.
  5. Trained NHS Cord Blood Bank staff contact mothers who have registered to donate before they have a baby to ask some simple lifestyle questions and to obtain verbal consent for the collection, testing and use of the donation.
  6. The NHS Cord Blood Bank is accredited by NetCord-FACT and licensed by Human Tissue Authority.