Sickle Cell Awareness Campaign

A new campaign is launched to help raise awareness of sickle cell disease.

NHS England launches the Can You Tell It’s Sickle Cell? campaign, which will help raise awareness of the main signs and symptoms of the disease.

A new NHS training program will also help staff better understand the condition, seizures and how to care for patients.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid speaking at the NHS ConfedExpo at ACC Liverpool (Peter Byrne/PA)

The campaign launch, which takes place on World Sickle Cell Day on Sunday, 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 up to 5,000 people over three years to have a much better quality of life.

People with the disorder, which disproportionately affects people of Black African and Caribbean descent, experience severe pain during a “sickle cell crisis” that can occur several times a year, often requiring hospitalization in order to be able to give morphine to control pain and prevent organ failure which can be fatal.

Symptoms of a seizure include, but are not limited to, severe pain, fever, one-sided paralysis, difficulty walking, sudden changes in vision, and confusion.

Speaking at NHS Confed/Expo on Wednesday, NHS Chief Executive Amanda Pritchard said: ‘I’ve heard some really powerful stories from patients living with sickle cell disease about their experience of the wider health service, how they were treated appallingly when they needed to go to A&E, so much so that they told me they had to think twice and often delay coming for care when they needed it .

“This brings us back to tackling health inequalities.

“One of the patients I spoke to asked me, ‘If I was white, would I be treated like this?’ She did not believe the NHS as a whole saw her as an equal. This must change.

“I am determined that we need to improve things for this particular patient group, but it also shows how we need to improve the experiences of all patients, gain the confidence to ensure that each individual feels empowered to ask for help when needed and believe they will be listened to if they tell us something is wrong.

John James, chief executive of the Sickle Cell Society, said: “It’s really great to see the NHS’s first national campaign against sickle cell disease going online.

“Sickle cell disease is a debilitating disease that affects individuals and families.

“We need to significantly raise awareness about this disorder.

“It is only through increased awareness and education of healthcare professionals and the general public that we will begin to see an improvement in the patient experience and ultimately their health outcomes. “

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