It is very important to increase the number of stem cell (cord blood and bone marrow) donors in the UK and so I welcome the vital work undertaken by Anthony Nolan. When I was the Minister for Public Health I had responsibility for this invaluable work and I am a proud supporter of Anthony Nolan.
In 2015 the Government announced an extra £3 million in additional funding for stem cell services, part of £19 million in additional investment that the Government has committed since 2010 to improve the provision of cells in the UK. This funding is being used to encourage young adult donors as well as those from under-represented populations, such as black, Asian and ethnic minority communities who find it difficult to secure a suitable match.
A single unified bone marrow donor registry has been created streamlining the provision of stem cells and reducing the time to provide cells from adult donors. It is encouraging that the total number of registered stem cell donors continues to expand. In 2010 the total number of registered United Kingdom donors was 770,000, which increased to in excess of one million by the end of 2014. This led to more UK patients receiving a stem cell transplant in 2014 than ever before.
I believe that aiding recovery should be a high priority. I am happy to note that, as of February 2017, NHS England has confirmed that it will fund second stem cell transplants for patients who suffer relapses following a first transplant. As I understand, the commissioning of post-operative care, to enable a swift and effective recovery, is the responsibility of local health commissioners. NHS England is supporting the roll-out of the Recovery Package for cancer patients, which will ensure that patients receive personalised care from the point of their diagnosis until the end of treatment. I am aware that a large number of hospitals, although not all, offer an Enhanced Recovery programme for those who have received major surgery, to help patients enjoy a speedy and successful recovery.
I recognise that as a nation we need to do all we can to encourage young people to become donors. That is why NHS Blood and Transplant has developed a free teaching resource pack called ‘Give and Let Live’, available for schools. It contains a teachers’ booklet which includes case studies and background information about the need for more donors and demonstrates to young people how they can make a difference to people’s lives. The pack is aimed at students aged 14 and over and is a great idea.