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14 new donor centres for world’s largest randomised COVID-19 plasma trial

19 October 2020

NHS Blood and Transplant is (NHSBT) opening 14 more blood plasma donation centres to urgently collect plasma for COVID-19 treatment trials and potential general use in hospitals.

The new centres will open across November and December, increasing the number of donor centres by 50% from 28 to 42. NHSBT now needs people in these areas who have had COVID-19 to offer to donate.

The NHS trials of convalescent plasma are the largest randomised controlled trials for this treatment of COVID-19, and also the first to reach 1,500 randomisations. (1)

The new locations will mean that 80% of potential donors across England can reach one of the donor centres within 45 minutes.

Collection staff pictured at Stratford Westfield pop-up plasma donor centre
Stratford Westfield pop-up donor centre. This is one of the existing pop-up plasma donor centres. A further 14 will be opened.

NHSBT is leading the collection programme on behalf of the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC). The programme has been running since April and the DHSC has asked for it to be extended and expanded into the autumn and winter.

Donations are urgently needed so that if the trial confirms patient benefit, plasma can be made available for general use in the NHS. The trials results could come before the end of the year. (2)

NHSBT already collects plasma in its 23 permanent blood donor centres and in five pop-up plasma centres. (3) The creation of the 14 additional pop-up centres will be supported by recruiting a further 373 donor carers and nurses across all donor centres.

The new centres opening in November and December are all in areas with high numbers of potential donors. The final venues are not yet confirmed in some locations. The new donor centres will be in:

  • Ashford
  • Bolton
  • Chichester
  • Chelmsford
  • Coventry
  • Croydon
  • Huddersfield
  • Northampton
  • Reading
  • Lincolnshire / Humberside
  • Stockton-on-Tees
  • Tottenham
  • Woking
  • Wolverhampton
A map showing the locations of the 14 new donor centres, existing centres and pop-up centres. Information about existing donor centres can also be found at: https://www.nhsbt.nhs.uk/covid-19-research/plasma-donors/where-can-i-donate-plasma/

Convalescent plasma is the antibody-rich plasma of people who’ve had coronavirus, which can be transfused into people who are struggling to develop their own immune response. The antibodies could slow or stop the virus spreading, which could save lives.

There is promising evidence for the effectiveness of convalescent plasma but before general use patient benefit needs to be demonstrated in randomised control trials.

Around 850 people have now received transfusions, through the collaborations with the RECOVERY and REMAP-CAP trials. (4) More than 200 hospitals are now taking part across the two trials. To date, more than 9,000 units of plasma with enough antibodies for use have been collected. (5)

Professor David Roberts, NHSBT Associate Medical Director for Blood Donation, said: “We have so far seen a fantastic response from the public coming forward to donate plasma. We are rapidly building our capability to collect plasma so that we can move into supplying hospitals at scale, should the trial demonstrate patient benefit.

“With 14 new centres – an overall total of 42 donation centres and pop-ups across the country – we need people in these areas who have had COVID-19 to come forward and donate plasma for patients. You could save lives.”

Minister for Innovation Lord Bethell said: “While the UK’s world-leading research sector has brought life-saving treatments for coronavirus – like dexamethasone – to NHS patients, our search is not over.

“The use of convalescent plasma has shown promising results in treating coronavirus and the opening of more donation centres is an important step towards getting this innovative treatment to more patients, if clinical trials demonstrate it should be available on the NHS.

“More donations are needed and everyone has a part to play in stopping this virus from harming our loved ones. I urge everyone who has had Covid-19 to come forward and donate – your contribution could save lives.”

Donation takes about 45 minutes. The whole visit – including the donation, snacks and checks - takes about 1 hour 15 minutes. Your body quickly replaces the donated plasma and donated antibodies. All donations are tested for COVID antibodies. London, Greater Manchester and Birmingham are priority areas for donation.

If you have had COVID-19 or the symptoms, you can register your interest in donating today.

Notes

  1. Half of people randomised receive plasma.
  2. The plasma arms of the RECOVERY and REMAP-CAP trials are adaptive and have no fixed end date. The results could come before the end of the year. NHSBT currently holds around 6,000 units of donated convalescent plasma with high enough antibody levels for the trials. A further 2,974 units have been issued to hospitals and have either been transfused or are in hospital blood banks.
  3. The full list is:
    • Blood donor centres which can now take plasma – Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Cambridge, Edgware, Gloucester, Lancaster, Leeds City Centre, Leicester, Liverpool, Luton, Manchester Norfolk House, Manchester Plymouth Grove, Newcastle, Nottingham, Oxford, Plymouth, Poole, Sheffield, Southampton, Stoke, Tooting, London West End.
    • Pop-up centres currently operating – Liverpool Speke, Leeds Seacroft, Stratford, Bexleyheath, Twickenham.
    • Pop-up centres due to open in November/December – Ashford, Bolton, Chichester, Chelmsford, Coventry, Croydon, Huddersfield, Northampton, Reading, Lincolnshire/Humberside, Stockton on Tees, Tottenham, Woking, Wolverhampton.
  4. As of the morning of Thursday 15th October, 1,445 people had been randomised into the convalescent plasma arm of RECOVERY and 291 people had been randomised into the convalescent plasma arm of REMAP-CAP.
  5. Donations need to have a score of EUROImmun 6 or greater to be used.