Despite improvements in supportive care, patients with β-thalassaemia major or sickle cell disease (SCD) may benefit from haematopoietic stem cell transplantation at some point during their lives. Human leucocyte antigen (HLA)-matched sibling bone marrow donors are not always available and alternative sources of stem cells have been sought, including related and unrelated donor cord blood transplants (CBT). The outcome of CBT from related donors for the treatment of both thalassaemia major and SCD is now approaching that for bone marrow transplantation, with around 90% of patients surviving disease-free. The main complication is graft rejection, which may be reduced by increasing pretransplant immune suppression. Transplant-related mortality following HLA-identical matched related donor CBT is extremely low but is significant in the small series of unrelated and/or mis-matched donor CBT. The principal limitation to extending the use of CB stem cells for the cure of haemoglobinopathies is the need to better understand the mechanisms of action and optimal conditioning regimens used to secure long-term engraftment while minimizing morbidity and mortality. Further biological studies and clinical trials are needed to address this aim.