NHS plea for blood plasma saving lives of thousands as 23-year ban lifted

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Previously the UK had to rely on imports of plasma –nicknamed “liquid gold” –after the 1998 ban on domestic donations due to mad cow disease. But the NHS has now received the green light to collect its own supplies again in England. Around 2,500 litres were ­filtered from the blood of thousands after the donations restarted on April 7. Dr Sheila MacLennan, consultant for plasma for medicines at NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT), said: “The response has been amazing, people have given thousands of donations. We’re so grateful.

“People tell us, ‘I just want to help’. But we will need more to ­supply all the plasma needed.

“Thousands rely on these medicines to stay alive.”

Plasma is a yellowish liquid that makes up about 55 percent of blood volume and also carries platelets and the red and white blood cells.

Since 1998, NHSBT has ­collected plasma from blood banks but this was not used to make immunoglobulin medicines. The ban on UK supplies for drugs was lifted in February after experts decided the risk of ­transmitting Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the human equivalent of mad cow disease, had declined.

The timing is fortunate as plasma has been collected from Covid-19 survivors during the pandemic for treatment trials.

Studies showed no benefit but the infrastructure can be used to collect for medicines instead.

Consultant haematologist Dr Naim Akhtar said: “It will just complete our picture if we can provide our own plasma as well.”

The Daily Express visited the NHS Plasma Donor Centre in Westfield Stratford City, east London, to see the process. It is one of 14 in England, collecting up to 60 donations per day.

Music teacher Ed Harlow, 42, from Leyton was a first-time donor. Donor care supervisor Noor Mahmood, 23, used an apheresis machine to ­collect 560ml of plasma over half an hour, a duration calculated based on height and weight.

The plasma was removed and red blood cells returned to him.

Ed said: “Sometimes it feels a ­little bit cold coming back in but it doesn’t hurt.”

To find out more visit blood.co.uk or call on 0300 123 23 23.

Published at Wed, 19 May 2021 11:00:02 +0000

NHS plea for blood plasma saving lives of thousands as 23-year ban lifted

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