Sickle cell disease

NHS launch sickle cell disease awareness campaign

The NHS have a launched a potentially life-saving campaign aimed at raising awareness for sickle cell disease, which disproportionately affects those of Black African and Caribbean descent.

The campaign, named Can you yell it’s sickle cell?, looks to increase awareness of the main symptoms and signs of the genetic disorder among not only the wider public, but among key healthcare staff as well.

A new staff training programme is also set to launch, that will educate health professionals on how best to care for individuals with sickle cell disease and grant them a greater understanding of the condition overall.

People suffering from the disorder can experience something called a “sickle cell crisis” that occurs multiple times a year and can often lead to hospital admissions, with symptoms of a crisis including severe pain, fever, confusion, difficulty walking, difficulty seeing, and one-sided paralysis.

The NHS has a history of tackling sickle cell disease, as less than a year ago they rolled out the first treatment in 20 years for the disease, which is expected to support up to 5,000 people over the course of the next three years.

NHS Chief Executive, Amanda Pritchard, said: “I heard really powerful stories from patients living with sickle cell disease about their experience of the wider health service, how they have been treated appallingly when they have needed to go to A&E, so much so that they told me they have to think twice and often delay coming forward for care when they need it.

“This brings us back around to tackling health inequalities. One of the patients I spoke to asked: ‘If I was white, would I be treated like this?’ She didn’t trust that the NHS as a whole viewed her as an equal. That has to change.

“I’m determined that we need to make things better for this particular patient group, but this also speaks to how we need to improve experiences for all patients, earn the trust needed to ensure that every individual feels able to seek help when they need it, and feels they will be listened to if they tell us something isn’t right.”

The health sector is continuing to battle health inequalities and has already committed over a £1bn to local areas suffering from health inequalities the most, as part of their Long Term Plan.

NHS England Director of Health Inequalities, Dr Bola Owolabi, said: “We know that sickle cell disease is a debilitating illness that thousands of people live with, but has historically been poorly understood, which is why the NHS is launching this brand new campaign and asking: ‘can you tell it’s sickle cell?’

“It is vital that we continue to tackle healthcare inequalities head on and this means improving care and experience of NHS services, access to the latest, cutting-edge treatments, and proactively raising awareness of conditions such as sickle cell disorder that disproportionately affect some of our communities.”

More information about the campaign is available here.

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