Sickle cell sufferers negatively impacted by Covid says Harlesden charity chief

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Sickle cell sufferers have problems accessing health services says new report. - Credit: Sickle Cell Society

Those with sickle cell disease are more likely to suffer from Covid-19 even if they do not catch it, according to a new report.  

Cast Aside and Forgotten is the latest report from the Sickle Cell and Thalassaemia All-Party Parliamentary Group (SCTAPPG) which worked with Harlesden's Sickle Cell Society (SCS) to investigate the experiences of those living with sickle cell or caring for someone with sickle cell during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sickle cell disease is an inherited blood condition which predominantly affects people from African and Caribbean backgrounds.

John James OBE, chief exec of SCS, said: "Intrinsically Covid-19 does not discriminate, pandemics don’t choose their victims and a virus does not select its host.

"But what is safe to say is that in a society where structural inequalities exist whether that be by socio-economic background, race, gender, disability – Covid-19 does discriminate (...) If you take a member of the sickle cell community, who is BAME, has sickle cell and from a lower socio-economic background, they are more likely to suffer from Covid-19."

More than half the respondents, 50.4 per cent, said that the pandemic affected their access to healthcare services where they lived which Mr James said was "a chilling statistic". 

People had problems accessing prescription medication and blood tests which brought on a crisis and episodes of severe pain when sickle cells joined together causing blockages in the small blood vessels.

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They also had problems accessing face-to face doctor's appointments.

According to the report, one person said their “GP refused face to face appointment so I ended up in hospital with severe pneumonia because they didn’t inspect my chest.”

Mr James added: "The SCS looked to stem this outpouring of anxiety by providing expert advice and support through the plethora of services it offers, whether that’s through its helpline which was inundated with queries, or its website providing the most up-to-date guidance."

Pat McFadden MP, chair of the SCTAPPG, said: “This report paints a picture of the experience of the pandemic through the eyes of those living with sickle cell.

"As in other walks of life is shows the need for more understanding of this condition as well as the need for better treatment. I hope the report is read by those who can make a difference in health care, the benefits system and many other walks of life.”