At the beginning of this week, Anthony Nolan launched our Save A Life At 16 campaign.
The idea is fairly simple. We need more young people to join our bone marrow donor register. This is because young people are more likely to be chosen by doctors treating blood cancers such as leukaemia. Each year, 2,000 people need a stem cell donation from a person they have never met.
Over 20,000 selfless young people have already signed up to the bone marrow donor register, but that number constitutes just four per cent of the total register. Every new donor increases the chance of saving the life of a person with blood cancer.
Anthony Nolan realised there's one simple way to reach every young person in the country. Each year, around 700,000 people receive their National Insurance number through the post. If we were to include information about joining the donor register in that letter, we could make a huge difference to awareness of stem cell donation in the UK. Anthony Nolan believes we could increase the number of 16-19 year olds joining the donor register by up to 25 per cent, thereby making a huge difference to blood cancer survival rates in the UK.
We know that there's an appetite among young people to get involved in stem cell donation. Just this week, 17 year old Ethan Buttress became one of the youngest people ever to donate bone marrow to a child he did not know. Ethan told Anthony Nolan: "The child will have my DNA and be using my immune system to fight off the cancer which is an amazing thought, the idea that I could save someone's life... I just think it's a really great once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."
That's the message we keep hearing from young people who have signed up to the Anthony Nolan register; people like Victoria Rathmill from Macclesfield and Celyn Evans from Essex who - like Ethan - have also donated in the past year. They tell us they see stem cell donation not only a duty but also as a remarkable chance to do something amazing and life-changing both for them and the recipient of their stem cells.
We at Anthony Nolan think every young person should at least be aware of this opportunity. That's why we want to pay to have this information included in the mailing of National Insurance numbers.
We don't see this as a "political" issue, but the plan will need the support of MPs in order to succeed, as it is up to HMRC and the Treasury to give the initiative the go ahead.
That's why we're asking supporters to endorse our campaign by signing the Save A Life At 16 e-petition. Only with public backing can we convince politicians in Westminster to support our proposal. More than 5,500 people already have already signed up, but - as with the register itself - every extra person can make the difference.
Click here to sign Anthony Nolan's Save A Life At 16 petition