How to become a donor in the UK

5 small steps to save a life

1st step

Contact your local health service or bone marrow donor program for directions to your closest testing facility.

2nd step 

Call your local center to make an appointment. The waiting period tends to be between  2 or 7 days.

3rd step

In order to study your histocompatibilty, one of two methods are used, depending on the country:

  1. Cheek swab: in the USA and Germany, for instance, samples for compatibility studies are submitted via a cheek swab. Swabs, reminiscent of a q-tip, will be mailed to you. You will have to swab the inside of your cheek with them, and then mail them back for testing.
  2. Blood sample: a small blood simple will be taken from you to conduct a basic histocompatibility study. Some of that sample will be kept at the lab in order to conduct further tests if a compatible patient is found, avoiding the need for a new prick of the needle if such a patient is located.

4th step

Your basic data and compatibility features will be registered in your national bone marrow donor database. This data will be encrypted and stored, in full compliance with your local data protection laws. This data will then be incorporated into the Bone Marrow Donors Worldwide network (BMDW), which features data from over 22 million donors in 50 countries.

5th step

With any luck, one of the hundreds of thousands of people around the world will be compatible with you. If this is the case, you will be contacted to make a donation. This donation  is a simple procedure, done under local or general anesthetic, by which some bone marrow is extracted from the hip through a series of punctures. Donors feel only a small discomfort, and  after some hours under observation, can go home. The extracted bone marrow will have been regenerated within a month of the extraction.

Where can I donate? – NEW!!

Here you can find a list of Stem Cell Donor Registries and Cord Blood Banks participating in BMDW – Bone Marrow Donors Worldwide in UK

Blood donors can become bone marrow donors at any National Health Service blood donation center. For detailed information, visit the website of the NHS British Bone Marrow Registry or call: 0300 123 23 23


Some people may not be able to become donors due to health reasons or life choices. Please consult the websites or hospitals to see posible restrictions.