To mark Blood Cancer Awareness Month this September, SNP MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar Alasdair Allan attended a reception in Holyrood, to celebrate the number of potential stem cell donors in the Western Isles on the Anthony Nolan register.

This achievement was marked by Anthony Nolan on Thursday 19 September, as part of its Communities vs Blood Cancer campaign, which shines a spotlight on vital work being done locally to ensure that every patient in need of a stem cell transplant can find a lifesaving donor.

In the Western Isles, 217 potential stem cell donors are registered with Anthony Nolan. 14% of these donors are men aged 16-30, and the average age is 36.

In total, more than 760,000 people in the UK are on the Anthony Nolan register, any of whom could be a match for someone with blood cancer and asked to donate their stem cells to give a patient a second chance of life.

Now, Alasdair is encouraging more people from the islands, particularly men aged 16-30 and people from black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds, to register as stem cell donors and make sure that a match is available for everyone in need of a transplant. While anyone on the register could be a match for someone with blood cancer, men aged 16-30 are most likely to be asked to donate. They provide more than 50% of donations yet make up just 18% of the register. There is also a shortage of donors from non-white and mixed-race backgrounds.

Alasdair also had the chance to meet with representatives of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) including Ally Boyle. Ally initiated a groundbreaking partnership with Anthony Nolan in 2009, while he was Area Commander of Strathclyde Fire and Rescue, after being diagnosed with myelodysplasia (a type of blood cancer). They have recruited thousands of lifesavers to the register, predominantly through their innovative SFRS Education Programme, which sees SFRS volunteers deliver inspiring educational presentations about stem cell, blood and organ donation to 16- to 18-year-olds across Scotland, including The Nicolson Institute and Sir E. Scott School.

Alasdair Allan MSP said:“I am very proud that the Western Isles has 217 donors on the register, any one of whom could offer the only chance of giving someone with blood cancer a second chance at life. Donating stem cells is straightforward but it could make an enormous difference to someone with no other chance of a cure.

“I would especially like to commend the great work of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service in engaging local communities, particularly secondary schools across Scotland. They’ve recruited more than fifty people who have gone on to donate. Their steadfast commitment over the past ten years has had a truly lifesaving impact.”

Henny Braund, Chief Executive of Anthony Nolan, said:“In the last year 12 selfless people from the Western Isles joined the Anthony Nolan register, each one representing hope for patients with blood cancer, and blood disorders, in need of matching stem cell donors.

“This Blood Cancer Awareness Month residents can be proud of all the lifesavers in your community. To everyone from the islands who has taken the decision to join the register, thank you. We rely on young people aged 16-30 joining the register now to save lives in the future. Without you, there is no cure.”

For more information on Anthony Nolan visit anthonynolan.org/join.

Anthony Nolan uses its register to match potential stem cell donors to blood cancer patients in desperate need of a stem cell transplant. It also carries out vital research to make stem cell transplants more successful, and supports patients through their transplant journeys. (Anthony Nolan changed its name in 2001 and is no longer known as Anthony Nolan Trust.)

  • About 2,000 people in the UK need a stem cell transplant from a donor every year
  • 90% of donors donate through PBSC (peripheral blood stem cell collection). This is a simple, outpatient procedure similar to giving blood
  • We need more young men to sign up, as they are most likely to be chosen to donate but make up just 18% of the register
  • We need more people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds to sign up. Only 60% of transplant recipients receive the best match. This drops dramatically to around 20% (one in five of transplant recipients) if you're from a Black, Asian or ethnic minority background.
  • Blood cancer is the fifth most common type of cancer in the UK and the third biggest cancer killer. It accounts for 9% of all new cases of cancer diagnosed in the UK.
  • It costs £40 to add each new donor to the register so we always need financial support
  • To join the Anthony Nolan register, you must be 16-30 and healthy.  Anthony Nolan’s world-leading Research Institute has shown younger donors offer better survival rates for patients.