Harlequins help NHS secure 1,000 plasma donations for COVID-19 treatment

2 October 2020

Harlequins rugby club has helped NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) collect 1,000 donations of convalescent plasma in the fight against coronavirus (COVID-19).

The ‘pop up’ donor centre opened in June at The Stoop rugby ground to help NHSBT's massively scaled up collection of blood plasma. Since then, more than 1,000 people who have had COVID-19 have donated there.

Plasma from people who have recovered from COVID-19 can be transfused into people who are still unwell and struggling to develop their own immune response. The plasma contains neutralising antibodies which could stop the virus spreading.

NHS Blood and Transplant is urgently seeking donations now, as plasma could be a vital treatment during any second wave over the autumn and winter.

There is a particular need for men to donate because they have higher antibody levels and are more likely to meet the donation criteria.

Men donating for the first time are three times more likely to donate a unit of plasma with a high level of antibodies than a woman donating for the first time.

Prof David Roberts, NHSBT’s Associate Medical Director for Blood Donation, said: “A massive thank you to Harlequins for helping us to collect these precious donations. But the job isn’t done yet.

“We’re urgently asking men who’ve had confirmed coronavirus or the symptoms to offer to donate and help us be prepared for any second wave of COVID this autumn – you could save lives.

“You don’t need to have had a positive test to offer to donate – all donations are tested.”

Convalescent plasma donation takes about 45 minutes, during which time you can sit back and relax. Your body usually replaces the plasma you’ve donated in 24-48 hours and you can get on with your normal day after donating. Your body quickly replaces the donated antibodies and people can donate plasma as often as every two weeks.

Although there is promising evidence of patient benefit from the use of convalescent plasma, the safety and effectiveness of convalescent plasma transfusions needs to be confirmed by a robust clinical trial, which is being led by NHSBT’s Clinical Trial’s Unit.

NHS Blood and Transplant will leave The Stoop this week as Harlequins look to return to normal service this season. Plasma donors will still be able to donate around the corner at Regal House in Twickenham.

On the milestone donation, Harlequins CEO Laurie Dalrymple, said: “Harlequins is extremely proud to have worked with the NHS on such important research into the treatment of the coronavirus. I know it means a lot to everyone at the Club that we can directly support the NHS in the fight against the virus that has so heavily impacted all our lives over these last few months.

“Building upon our long-standing relationship with the NHS as a blood donation centre and our partnership with the Chelsea & Westminster NHS Foundation Trust, we draw immense pride from playing our part, however small, in battling against the coronavirus pandemic.”