It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Henry. I thank Mohammad Yasin for securing this important debate on an issue that has been exercising me for the past year. Since I became Minister with responsibility for this area, the disparity in access for people from black and minority ethnic communities to blood, organs and stem cells has been of great concern to me. I have been working with NHSBT on this theme for the past year, and I hope I can give the hon. Gentleman some comfort. We are making some progress, but I want to assure all hon. Members that I am under no illusions about how big this challenge is for a host of reasons that I will come on to.
I thank Eleanor Smith for being here. I read her report with interest and agreed with every word. The principles she articulated are key to increasing donation. If I were to highlight one particular issue, it would be the culture of normalising donation in those communities. Tulip Siddiq has just given a beautiful example of how local leadership can do that, and that is something we can all take away.
Whenever we debate a subject like organ and blood donation, everyone brings their own personal story, because we have all been touched by people who have needed a transplant. That is what brings the issue alive for us; it is about saving lives.
My overall objective is to increase the rate of donation across the board. Although it is true that a person is more likely to die waiting for a transplant if they are from a black and minority ethnic community, the fact is that we are losing too many people who are waiting for a transplant. We need a concerted effort to improve the rate of donation from all parts of our society. There is much we can do to achieve that. Hon. Members will be aware of the private Member’s Bill from Mr Robinson, which seeks to change the opt-out system. It will be a big help, but it will not solve the problem by itself. There is a lot more we need to do to educate the public about the importance of donation and to dispel the fears and myths about it.