Can You Tell It's Sickle Cell?

NHS England and NHS Improvement has launched a new Sickle Cell awareness campaign ahead of World Sickle Cell Day 2022.

The campaign, which is part of a bigger drive to improve sickle cell care across the NHS, aims to increase awareness of the key signs and symptoms of a Sickle Cell crisis, particularly among urgent emergency care staff and those living with the condition and their carers.

It also aims to promote and generate uptake of a new e-learning module about the condition and the healthcare inequalities related to it.

Anyone can be born with Sickle Cell disorder, but it is most common amongst people from a black Caribbean or black African background. If a person has any of these symptoms, immediate action should be taken as they could be signs of a Sickle Cell crisis or complication:

  • Pain
  • Signs of infection including fever
  • One-sided paralysis or weakness in the face, arms or legs
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty walking or talking
  • Sudden visual changes
  • Unexplained numbness
  • Severe headache
  • Breathlessness, chest pain or low oxygen levels

Over half of sickle cell disease patients living in the most deprived areas experience re-admission to hospital in comparison with 28% among those hospitalised from the least deprived areas. Sickle cell patients admitted from the most deprived areas are twice as likely to die in hospital in comparison with those admitted from the least deprived areas. The campaign aims to reach these areas as a priority.

This new campaign comes after the NHS struck a deal last October to roll out the first sickle cell treatment in 20 years – a drug called crizanlizumab which will help up to 5,000 over three years to have a much better quality of life. The new treatment is delivered by a transfusion drip and works by binding to a protein in the blood cells to prevent the restriction of blood and oxygen supply that lead to a sickle cell crisis.

A new training module for NHS staff has also been launched to support increased knowledge of the condition and how to treat it. The training module also includes information on healthcare inequalities related to the condition: