In 1971, a boy called Anthony Nolan was born with a rare blood cancer condition.
He needed a bone marrow transplant from a relative to survive but it wasn’t to be and he died at the age of eight.
His mother Shirley decided that other parents should not suffer the same tragedy and came up with the idea of a bone marrow register to connect unrelated donors with people like Anthony.
The idea gathered support from medical professionals and a royal patron.
By 1994 they provided transplants to 1,000 people and their register now includes half a million potential donors. The Anthony Nolan organisation is constantly seeking to make it easier to prevent needless deaths.
Five years ago, they made joining the register much easier by asking potential donors to give saliva samples instead of blood. They no longer need healthcare professionals at recruitment events, and can post ‘spit kits’ – saving time and money.
I met them in the Commons last week and agreed to back their efforts to highlight what needs to be done to secure a better future for blood cancer patients.
They say that 11,300 people will need a stem cell transplant in the next five years but one in eight will fail to find a matching donor.
I have written to the Health Secretary and tabled questions. The charity does splendid work and deserves wider support.