Sickle cell patients to benefit from national £1.5m technology investment

Published: 20-Feb-2024

NHS England Specialised Commissioning has invested £1.5m in 25 red cell exchange devices

Sickle cell disease patients will be able to get care local to them thanks to a national £1.5m investment in 25 red blood cell exchange devices.

This investment comes from NHS England Specialised Commissioning and the devices will be ready to treat patients by the end of March.

Funding for the Spectra Optia (trademarked) Apheresis System devices has been distributed to 22 NHS trusts.

Among the 22 NHS trusts are:

  • King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
  • Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust
  • Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust
  • St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust 
  • King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust 

King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust will receive funding for two devices, while the other Trusts will receive funding for one device each.

Sickle cell patients often find themselves in and out of hospitals, enduring severe pain and requiring regular ‘top-up’ blood transfusions.

Automating red blood cell exchanges can help reduce the necessity for top-up transfusions, effectively manage pain, and lower the risk of experiencing a crisis. 

Eligible patients can receive treatment every six to eight weeks.

The Spectra Optia device is one of the technologies supported through NHS England’s MedTech Funding Mandate. 

Improving access to red blood cell exchange therapy has the potential to save NHS England up to £12.9m annually 

The Health Innovation Network (formerly known as the AHSN Network) is the lead delivery partner for the Mandate.

The Mandate is designed to accelerate the adoption of selected cost-saving medical technologies, diagnostics, and digital products recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).

Improving access to red blood cell exchange therapy has the potential to save NHS England up to £12.9m annually while reducing health inequalities.

Harriet Smith, National Programme Lead for Spectra Optia, at Health Innovation Yorkshire & Humber, said: “This funding will play a pivotal role in ensuring sickle cell patients receive more regular care closer to where they live, as well as help reduce health inequalities. 

£1.5m investment from NHS England Specialised Commissioning

“I’m very proud of the role the MedTech Funding Mandate has played in the roll-out of this technology to ensure we meet the automated red blood cell exchange needs of sickle cell patients,” Smith added.

John Stewart, National Director for Specialised Commissioning, NHS England, explained: “NHS England is committed to improving the support provided to people with sickle cell disease. 

“This investment to increase the number of devices for automated red blood cell exchange across the country will support the expansion of services and improve access for patients who need regular transfusions," Stewart added.

Antoinette Gawin, President and CEO of Terumo Blood and Cell Technologies: “This investment helps more patients get treatment with a proven therapy to manage sickle cell disease. This option has existed for years but has been inaccessible to some patients — especially in underserved communities — due to barriers, including limited awareness."

Gawin explained that now, thanks to the collaborative efforts of the NHS, the Health Innovation Network and the voice of patients, this sickle cell therapy with Spectra Optia will be an option for more people who may benefit.


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