SFRS and Anthony Nolan

Working together saving lives

We are delighted to be celebrating the 14th year of our award winning, transformational partnership with the Scottish Fire & Rescue Service (SFRS).

Ally and Andy SFRS
Andy Watt and Ally Boyle

We are very proud of the partnership and feel it is a magnificent example of what can be achieved. The strap-line for the partnership is “Working together, saving lives” and that is exactly what we have done.

Ally Boyle, founder of the SFRS and Anthony Nolan partnership

In the past decade, SFRS has recruited over 19,000 potential donors to the Anthony Nolan stem cell register. Will you be the next potential lifesaver?

For someone with blood cancer, an amazing stranger donating their stem cells could be their best chance of survival. Anyone can be diagnosed with blood cancer, but not everyone can find a matching donor.

Without you, there is no cure.

101 people recruited by SFRS have gone on to donate after being called as a match for someone in need of a lifesaving stem cell transplant. That’s 101 people who have been given a second chance of life, and a future with their families. Isn’t that incredible?

Here are the facts

  • You can join online! You’ll get a pack in the post for you to do a cheek swab and send back. We’ll test your sample and add your information to the stem cell register.
  • You’ll stay on the register until you’re the grand age of 61. If you ever come up as a match for someone with blood cancer, we’ll be in touch.
  • We’ll organise the whole thing. We support you at every stage of your donation and arrange everything, from travel to accommodation. We've got it all covered.
  • There are two ways you might be asked to donate:

90% of people donate via their bloodstream in a straightforward process called peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC) collection.


When you’re actually on the bed donating, it doesn’t feel awkward or painful. It was quite relaxing to be honest, just sitting in the bed. The only thing is, you’re there for four hours – but four hours out of your life, to give someone the chance of life? It’s nothing. It’s more than worth it.

Aaron, who donated via PBSC

10% have their stem cells collected via their bone marrow while under general anaesthetic.

Bone marrow donating done! I can honestly say it has been an amazing and surprisingly pain-free experience (I am a wimp!). Knowing I’ve given someone a second chance at life is such a fantastic feeling.

Donna, who donated via bone marrow

Where did the SFRS and Anthony Nolan partnership begin?

In 2008, Ally Boyle was diagnosed with a blood disorder. He was told that his best chance of survival was a stem cell transplant.

As Area Commander with Strathclyde Fire & Rescue, Ally recognised the synergy between the service and Anthony Nolan, with their shared aims of saving lives. He contacted Anthony Nolan, and soon after this fantastic, life-changing partnership was born.

14 years later, the partnership is still going strong. There have been lots of changes with the creation of the national service – Scottish Fire & Rescue Service (SFRS) – and Ally having retired, but the values and determination remain unchanged. In fact, they just get bigger, better and bolder.

Working in schools

Most SFRS partnership activity now takes place in schools across Scotland, with tens of thousands of young people have now been educated about stem cell donation. Ally continues to head up the partnership that now has a strong network of SFRS volunteers across the country, with Andy Watt as Chair of the partnership.

I feel enormously privileged to lead the partnership and I am delighted with what we have achieved to date. I think it is important to say that not only has this partnership allowed us to increase our ability to save lives, but it has also brought huge benefits to us as an organisation.

Andy Watt, Chair of the partnership

We couldn’t be more proud – this partnership is truly lifesaving. 

Aged 31+ or want to support in other ways?

If you’ve already signed up to the stem cell register and or want to support Anthony Nolan further, there are lots of ways you can get involved with our lifesaving work.

If you’re aged 31+, your support can save lives. Without you, there is no cure.