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What is sickle cell disease and what is thalassaemia?

Sickle cell disease and thalassaemia are lifelong, inherited disorders that affect the red blood cells.

Sickle cell disease (SCD) can cause red blood cells to change shape or ‘sickle’. The sickle-shaped cells contain defective haemoglobin, the iron-rich protein that enables red blood cells to carry oxygen from your lungs to the rest of the body. The abnormal cells are also unable to move around as easily as normal shaped cells and can block blood vessels, resulting in tissue and organ damage and episodes of severe pain.

Thalassaemia is a condition that, in its most severe form, causes abnormalities in haemoglobin, the component of blood that carries oxygen from the lungs to the body’s tissues and returns carbon dioxide from the tissues back to the lungs. Some people need regular blood transfusions to avoid complications.

Links to more information on these conditions can be found at the bottom of this page.


People can have different forms of SCD or thalassaemia, with varying needs and possible complications. Our service offers treatment, support and advice for all forms of these conditions, including medical treatment in our outpatient clinics or on the hospital wards.

St George’s is a specialist regional centre for SCD and thalassaemia. We offer a wide range of specialist treatment options, with services including:

  • regular monitoring in our outpatient clinics (held weekly)
  • a full emergency department with a direct link to our specialist haematology team
  • admission to a ward if specialised treatment is required
  • close links to other specialties for screening and investigation, (for eye, heart, kidney and urology tests and treatment)
  • a specialist Haematology Day Unit for blood transfusions and red cell exchange treatments
  • a clinical health psychology service based within the haematology team
  • a community nursing team and specialist clinical nursing staff on the wards
  • specialist genetic screening and pre-conception advice
  • close links with the paediatric (children’s) haematology team
  • a specialist haematology laboratory and blood service
  • patient and family education and awareness workshops
  • training and education for healthcare professionals from other specialties and from primary care.

How can I be referred to St George’s Hospital?

You can ask your GP to refer you to the sickle cell and thalassaemia consultant haematologist at St George’s. If you receive your main care at another hospital, your consultant can refer you to us for specialist services.

Further information

The following leaflet contains information about our service.

Sickle cell and thalassaemia service (adults)

For more information about sickle cell disease and thalassaemia, the following information is from patient.co.uk

SCD information from patient co uk

Thalassaemia information from patient co uk

NHS choices also have information on sickle cell disease:


You may find the following services and information helpful:

Wandsworth sickle cell and thalassaemia support group
15 Broadwater Road, Tooting, London, SW17 0DS
Tel: 020 8682 9489 Web: www.wsctsg.org.uk Email: wsctsg@btinternet.com

Merton Sickle Cell & Thalassaemia Group
The Vestry Hall, 336 -338 London Road, Mitcham, Surrey, CR4 3ND
Tel: 020 8646 8778 Web: www.msctg.org.uk Email: info@msctg.org.uk

Sickle Cell Society
54 Station Road, London NW10 4UA
Tel: 020 8961 7795 Web: www.sicklecellsociety.org Email: info@sicklecellsociety.org

UK Thalassaemia Society
19 The Broadway, Southgate Circus, London N14 6PH
Tel: 020 8882 0011 Web: www.ukts.org Email: office@ukts.org