13.06.2024

Students to learn about blood and organ donation on school curriculum for first time

NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) has worked with blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan and teachers to develop free resources for schools to use for lessons.

Students in England are set to learn about blood and organ donation on the school curriculum for the first time.

The change for secondary schools across the country is hoped to encourage young people to become donors and to talk to others about donating.

As well as blood and organ donation, pupils are also set to learn about stem cell donation – which can be used to treat blood cancers and disorders – on the curriculum for the first time this academic year.

Alex Cullen from NHSBT said the body – which is responsible for blood donation in England, organ donation in the UK and the British Bone Marrow Registry – is “delighted” at the change on the secondary school curriculum.

“We see considering the types of donation as a rite of passage to becoming an adult, these lessons will allow pupils to discuss donation and empower them to make their own informed decision,” he said.

The NHSBT head of marketing added: “If young people support donation after learning about it, we know they can be hugely influential and can help advocate for us and ultimately help us save more lives.”

Around 1.4m blood donations are needed in England every year to help hospital patients across the country.

Terence Lovell from Anthony Nolan said the new resources for schoools will “provide young people with an introduction to altruistic donation and enable them to start important conversations with their families and friends”.

He added: “Without incredible young donors, Anthony Nolan simply couldn’t keep saving lives.”

A spokesperson from The Sickle Cell Society said the charity welcomes this educational initiative.

“People from African and Caribbean backgrounds are more likely to have certain blood types commonly found in those with sickle cell, so we need more people from these ethnicities to come forward and register as a donor,” they told The Independent.

“We feel optimistic that the changes to the curriculum will support us and all of those working in the field of blood, organ and stem cell donation to build new generations of donors who have a firm understanding of why donation is important and the life saving impact it can have on those with serious health conditions.”

Orin Lewis, co-founder & CEO of the African Caribbean Leukaemia Trust, said: “Educating secondary school pupils on blood, organ and stem cell donation is something ACLT has been doing with great success, over the last 25 years.

“A high percentage of the thousands of pupils we’ve engaged with, respond positively through the questions they ask, with many of the pupils going on to register to join all three donor registries – their enthusiasm to help save the life of a potential stranger, always leaves us in awe.

“We wholeheartedly support this new addition to the national curriculum which we know from experience, will ultimately lead to save many more lives.”

Reshna Radiven, Head of Communications and Engagement at blood cancer charity DKMS, said: “We are delighted that all secondary school children in England are now being taught how to save lives through donation, as part the national curriculum for the first time. This has the potential to save thousands of patients who lose their lives each year due to a lack of available organ donors.“

New rules came into effect earlier this year allowing more gay and bisexual men to donate blood, which meant donors are no longer asked if they are a man who has sex with another man.

And last year, the organ donation system in England changed to an opt-out system, with all adults automatically enrolled.

It has been estimated this move will lead to an additional 700 organ transplants each year by 2023 and reduce the number of patients waiting for the life-changing surgery, which is in the thousands across the UK.

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