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Facebook teams up with NHS blood service providers across England, Wales and Northern Ireland

16 September 2020

Facebook is today announcing a partnership with NHS blood service providers across England, Wales and Northern Ireland(1) to help top up the blood donation pipeline with much-needed 'new blood'. It will also help the NHS to recruit convalescent plasma donors, who could save the lives of people with COVID-19. 

Launching today, Facebook’s new blood donation feature, which has already helped to recruit more than 70 million blood donors globally, will allow those aged between 18 and 65(2) to sign up to receive updates on Facebook about giving blood, get notified about opportunities to donate at local blood donation centres and invite friends to donate. Facebook is promoting the feature by notifying people in their newsfeeds, or people can simply find it by searching “blood donations” on Facebook.

A look Facebook's new blood donation feature

More than 5,000 blood donations are needed by the NHS every day to meet the needs of patients across England, Wales and Northern Ireland and every donation can save up to three lives. However, most donors are aged over 45, which is why the NHS is seeking to recruit ‘new blood’ through Facebook’s blood donation feature to help secure the next generation of long-term donors and protect the blood supply for the future.

As part of the #NewBlood campaign, NHS blood service providers are also calling on black people and men to sign up as blood donors to help the NHS collect the right mix of blood types that patients need now.

According to data from the NHS Blood and Transplant in England, increased demand for rare subtypes, such as RO, that are more common in people of black heritage, means there is a need for more black people to become blood donors - currently only around 1.5 percent of donors in England are black. The campaign also hopes to get more male donors to sign up as their blood generally contains fewer antibodies, making it easier to match to patients and easier to use in blood products such as plasma and platelets.

The timing of the tool is vital because ahead of any second wave of COVID-19, the NHS urgently need people who’ve had coronavirus to donate convalescent plasma(3). The antibody-rich plasma of people who’ve recovered from the virus can be transfused into those who are struggling to develop their own immune response. Men are especially needed because they are roughly 50% more likely to have high enough antibody levels for the trials. The new Facebook blood donation feature means that convalescent plasma donors in England can find out when there are nearby opportunities to donate blood and encourage others to do the same to help in the fight against COVID-19.

Zeeshan Asghar, National Partnerships Manager for NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “We know Facebook is already a great way to spread the message about giving blood, so we’re really excited about the blood donation feature which will allow new donors to receive updates on local opportunities to donate and encourage their friends to do the same.

“It’s a priority for us to make it easy for people to know when and where their nearest blood donor sessions are, so we’re really pleased that the new feature enables users to do this. There are priority groups of people that we need to become the next generation of life-savers and we’re really hoping people will use the new feature and donate.  

“The timing of the tool is vital because a big challenge for us at the moment is recruiting enough convalescent plasma donors ahead of any second wave of COVID-19. We urgently need people who’ve had coronavirus to volunteer to donate convalescent plasma - the more people who use the Facebook feature, the more people will come forward to help,  so we're encouraging everyone to take advantage of how easy it is.”

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said, “Giving blood saves lives. The need for donors never ceases, and we have seen in the past few months how blood products can be used to treat those seriously ill with coronavirus.

“This new tool makes donations even easier, with donor centres sending notifications through Facebook to let people know when they can give blood in their area.”

“I’m hugely grateful to new donors and everyone who has continued to donate throughout the pandemic, and I encourage anyone who can to give blood or plasma to help save more lives.”

Alan Prosser, Director at the Welsh Blood Service, said: “We are thrilled to be working with Facebook on this exciting new feature for blood donors. It’s another great way people can start their journey to becoming a real lifesaver and an easy way to keep up to date on local donation opportunities.

“Every day we rely on the generosity of our donors to provide vital donations of blood, platelets, plasma and bone marrow to meet the supply demands of the 19 hospitals we service.

“With the COVID-19 pandemic presenting us with new challenges, we’re eager to see the difference this collaboration will make for the next generation of blood donors in Wales.”

Karin Jackson Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service CEO, said: “NIBTS is delighted to be involved in this innovative initiative between Facebook and the UK blood services. Each week, we need around 900 blood donations to ensure that we maintain the supply of blood to Northern Ireland’s health service. Due to COVID-19, we are currently running with reduced capacity so it is essential that we fill all of our donation appointment slots to ensure we meet hospital demand.”

Steve Hatch, Facebook Vice President for Northern Europe, added: “Giving blood saves countless lives and now the NHS and Facebook are making it easier than ever for people to donate and make a difference using Facebook’s blood donation feature. Within a few clicks you can sign up and be notified when your local donor centre needs more donors to book in as well as encourage others to do the same. It’s on all of us to do our bit, so if you’ve never given blood before, or if it keeps dropping off the to-do list, why not sign up and help save a life.”

Since the launch of the feature in 2017, Facebook has partnered with blood donation services around the world. The feature is already available in the US, Mexico, Brazil, Egypt, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Taiwan, Niger, Senegal, Kenya, South Africa, India, Bangladesh and Pakistan and will roll out to the rest of the UK soon. 

People between the ages of 18-65 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland can sign up to receive notifications on Facebook about blood donation opportunities by simply searching “blood donations” on the Facebook app or visiting the Blood donations Facebook page

Notes

  1. The NHS blood service providers include NHS Blood and Transplant, Welsh Blood Service and Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service.
  2. You can register to start donating blood from 17 but the tool is only available to Facebook users from the age of 18.
  3. NHS Blood and Transplant and Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service are urgently asking for people in England and Northern Ireland who have recovered from COVID-19 to volunteer to donate Convalescent Plasma. You can register your interest online in England or Northern Ireland.