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£4 million investment in NHS stem cell services will save lives

14th July 2011

A life a month could be saved thanks to a £4 million investment by the Government in NHS stem cell services, Public Health Minister Anne Milton announced today.

The project, agreed with partners NHS Blood and Transplant and charity Anthony Nolan, will see stem cell donors and potential recipients matched far more quickly than in the past. It aims to reduce average search times down to two weeks, which is estimated will save on average one life per month.

The project includes three main elements:

  • Anthony Nolan and NHS Blood and Transplant will bring their bone marrow registries together by aligning their databases. Between them, they already provide access to over 700,000 adult donors in the UK. Consolidating them will speed up donor searches and therefore matches of potential donors and recipients;
  • A £1.9m contract between the Department of Health and Anthony Nolan, with the charity becoming the single contact point for all NHS transplant units looking for a suitably matched adult donor or stem cell unit. The contract will help to establish a “fit panel” of 20,000 young adult donors to further reduce the time it takes to find a suitable match for transplant; and
  • Both Anthony Nolan and NHS Blood and Transplant will also receive £2 million to increase collection services at its five umbilical cord blood collections sites to a 24/7 service.  They will also be opening a new collection facility towards the end of the year.  This will see the NHS Cord Blood Bank, already one of the largest in the world, grow from 17,000 to 35,000 processed and stored units.

Anne Milton said:

“This new collaboration between NHS Blood and Transplant and the Anthony Nolan Trust is excellent news. We know that the quicker we match potential donors to recipients, the more lives can be saved.

“This extra £4 million will help to save the lives of many more people who need bone marrow transplants. I look forward to seeing this project make a real difference to patients.”

Anthony Nolan Chief Executive Henny Braund said:

“The collaboration is great news. For a patient with a blood cancer waiting for a stem cell transplant, every minute counts and everything we can do to reduce that time is vital. Today’s announcement marks a major step forward to achieving our goal of helping every patient who needs a stem cell transplant.”

Lynda Hamlyn, Chief Executive of NHS Blood and Transplant, said:

“This investment by Government will help increase the number of stem cell samples collected and, equally important, reduce the waiting time for patients to find a suitable match.

“Both of these will help us in our mission to save more lives and improve the life chances of others.”

 

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