Health Minister praises success of a new cord blood collection unit 

20/01/2012 00:00 

A new cord blood donation centre in the heart of London is off to a flying start with over 140 mothers giving potentially life-saving umbilical cord blood since the unit opened in November 2011.

Pic: Anne Milton (in the green jacket) with transplant patients Andy Wicks (third from left), Madelaine Burke (fifth from left),

Anne Milton (in the green jacket) with transplant patients Andy Wicks (third from left), Madelaine Burke (fifth from left), Luke Leahy (third from right) and donor Prasharnie Pushpanathan (fourth from left)

The NHS Cord Blood Bank facility at University College Hospital (UCH) is already the second most efficient NHS cord blood collection unit in the country collecting donations from around a third of available births. It currently operates 16 hours per day, five days a week.

On Thursday this week Anne Milton, Under Secretary of State for Health, visited the facility at the UCH Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Wing and meet a cord blood donor and staff when she officially opens the NHS Cord Blood Bank collection unit at UCH. She also met with patients Luke Leahy, Madelaine Burke and Andy Wicks who have all had cord blood transplants at University College Hospital under the care of consultant haematologist Dr Rachael Hough.

The Minister was shown how the cord blood is collected after it is donated and will tour the collection facility before going on to meet donors and staff to discuss the importance of cord blood in medical treatments.

Cord blood is the blood that remains in the placenta and umbilical cord after a baby is born. It is rich in stem cells that can help patients whose own bone marrow is not working due to disease or after receiving medical treatments such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy for leukaemia or other cancers.

Prasharnie Pushpanathan donated her cord blood when she gave birth to her baby girl, Raya, in May 2010. Prasharnie said: “I was only too pleased to donate this product which otherwise would have gone to waste. To think that someone else’s child could be saved is amazing. I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again if I had more children and I would urge all expectant mothers to donate their cord blood too.

”For me, donating my cord blood was a small gesture that has an amazing impact – a waste product that can potentially save a life. Why wouldn’t anyone donate their cord blood?”

Lynda Hamlyn, Chief Executive at NHSBT, said: “Giving more mothers the opportunity to donate their cord blood to help seriously-ill patients is vital. I’m delighted that the facility at UCH has proved to be an immediate success and we will be working hard to increase the number of collections. We have recently moved to collecting cords 24 hours a day, seven days week at four of the six NHSBT collection facilities. This increases the opportunity for mothers to donate.”

Anne Milton, Public Health Minister, said:  "This new NHS cord blood collection centre is part of a package of Government funded services to improve stem cell transplantation and increase the number of cord collections. This will mean that patients needing life-saving transplants receive treatment more quickly. This project is about making a real difference to people and the lives they can lead."

UCH consultant haematologist, Rachael Hough, is chief investigator for two national cord blood transplant protocols and a member of the national Stem Cell Strategic Forum. She said: “We are really excited about opening this facility at UCH. It will make a significant contribution to the national cord blood bank.

“There is evidence that if we reach our target of 50,000 units across the UK, as many as 200 lives could be saved every year. These banks offer real hope to patients with life-threatening cancers who would otherwise have no alternative treatments available. We are delighted with the response of new mums at UCH and are confident the service will go from strength to strength.”

The UCH facility operates alongside those at St George’s (Tooting), Barnet General, Watford General, Northwick Park and Luton and Dunstable Hospitals.
The six NHSBT collection sites are located in areas that serve ethnically diverse communities. Donor ethnicity is an important consideration when matching cord blood donations to a potential recipient as it increases the chance of a possible match. By focusing collection in these communities, it is hoped that more cord blood donations will be collected from Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) communities who currently have to wait longer to find a matched donor. 

Expectant mothers register their interest as potential donors during their pregnancy and provide consent in advance for collection, testing and use of the cord blood.

The voluntary donations are stored in the NHS Cord Blood Bank in Filton, Bristol which is managed by NHSBT. To find out more about donating cord blood, go to


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