Health Sciences

image of a nurse taking blood

Brighton leads drive to boost BAME student-led organ donation awareness

Simonne Weeks and Rebecca Craig are overseeing a project to tackle shortages in relation to blood and organ donation in BAME communities across the UK.

For many patients in need of a transplant the best match will come from a donor from the same ethnic background, and there is a significant shortage in organs coming from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic donors – particularly for kidneys. At present, BAME patients wait significantly longer on average than white people to receive an organ (743 days v 573 days). More blood donors are also needed from a Black background to provide treatments for patients with conditions like sickle cell disease.

The Brighton project – funded by NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) – is being jointly led by Senior Lecturer in Biomedical Science, Simonne Weeks, and Senior Lecturer in Nursing, Rebecca Craig. They will work with students from BAME backgrounds to co-design and co-deliver interactive online events to address changes in the law, misconceptions and clinical need for more BAME donors. The wider aim is to enable networks and communities to be formed and strengthen within, and across, universities in the UK.

Simonne WeeksSimonne Weeks said: “Our previous NHSBT-funded project enabled 205 conversations about organ donation with 36% of attendees reporting they had ‘not considered registering to be an organ donor prior to the event’. The impact of the education intervention showed 79% of students were ‘likely to register to be an organ donor after the event’ and 74% responded they were ‘likely to talk about organ donation to a friend/family member’.”

The project will provide an opportunity to engage with scenarios and conversations that occur in donor families, transplant recipients and health and care professionals. Just as celebrities are talking to ethnic minority communities to dispel myths about the COVID-19 vaccine, there is an urgent need to dispel myths about organ donation to save lives with more ethnically matched organ transplantations.

Rebecca CraigRebecca Craig said: “The evidence from our previous work helped us recognise that there is an urgent need for organ donation awareness beyond the medical, nursing and science fields that will lead to the University of Brighton becoming a student-led organ donation awareness hub.”

Altaf Kazi, head of Faith and Belief Engagement at NHS Blood and Transplant, said:
“Through the Community Investment Scheme we have seen first-hand the abilities of trusted individuals and community groups to prompt conversation, tackle misinformation, educate and offer reassurance around organ donation and now blood donation. Often a person’s best donor match will share their ethnicity, but too many donation opportunities are missed because families haven’t discussed organ donation, and Black and Asian people are seriously underrepresented when it comes to donating blood.”

The University of Brighton initiative is one of three in the area being funded by NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) under their Community Investment Scheme, with the others being Facts Not Fear from Black and Minority Ethnic Community Partnership (BMECP), and Sustaining Discourse on Organ Donation from Chinese Educational Development Project (CEDP).

Simonne Weeks was also involved in creating Blood Culture, a groundbreaking bio-medical thriller series which explores 21st century anxieties of the harvesting of personal data, exploitation of millennial interns and the pervasiveness of corporate control in our everyday lives. On its April 2017 release, it became the top arts or drama podcast in the UK, knocking The Archers off its usual top spot!

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Kerry Burnett • March 30, 2021

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