A brand new initiative to boost public awareness of the genetic disorder which affects thousands across the UK has been launched by NHS England.
The campaign, dubbed ‘Can you tell it’s sickle cell?’, is aimed at increasing awareness of the key signs and symptoms of sickle cell disorder – which disproportionately affects people from Black African and Caribbean backgrounds – among emergency care staff, carers and the wider public. A brand new NHS training programme will also help staff better understand the condition, crises, and how to care for patients during their greatest hour of need.
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‘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,’ said NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard.
‘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.’
The campaign comes less than a year after the NHS struck a deal to roll out the first sickle cell treatment in 20 years, which will help as many as 5,000 people over three years to have a much better quality of life.
People with the disorder endure severe pain during a ‘sickle cell crisis’ that can occur multiple times per year, often requiring hospital admission so they can be given morphine to control the pain and prevent organ failure which can be fatal.
‘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?,’ said NHS England director of health inequalities Dr Bola Owolabi.
‘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.’