What is plasma used for?
Plasma can be used to manufacture two different types of treatments:
- plasma medicines
- blood components
Manufacturing plasma medicines involves separating out antibodies from plasma donations.
These are made into a medicine called immunoglobulin, which is infused into people who don’t have enough of their own antibodies.
People in England can now donate plasma to help save the lives of people who need these medicines. More about plasma for medicines.
NHS Blood and Transplant uses plasma to make two blood components known as Fresh Frozen Plasma (FFP) and cryoprecipitate (cryo), which are given to patients as a transfusion.
This plasma is either separated out from donated whole blood or taken specifically as a plasma donation at our blood donor centres. FFP and cryo are supplied to hospitals in the same way as other blood components, such as red blood cells and platelets.
FFP is typically used to help people’s blood clot after major blood loss, for example after a car crash. It can also be used for rare diseases and cases of liver failure.
Our donors are in the UK. They are unpaid blood, platelet and plasma donors, who donate to help save the lives of other people.
More about plasma and how it helps people
Our history with Plasma Resources UK
Some confusion exists about plasma donations being used for profit. We do not sell your plasma or pay people to donate, and the donation process is not privatised or run for profit.
Between 1998 and 2021, plasma from UK donors could not be fractionated for use in immunoglobulin, as a precaution against the possible risks of vCJD. At that point, the UK Government created a company called Plasma Resources UK (PRUK). PRUK imported plasma from the USA and manufactured fractionated plasma medicines for NHS patients.
It had a branch in the USA and the Bio Products Lab in England.
In 2013, 80% of this company was sold to a company called Bain Capital.
It has been wrongly suggested that the whole of the UK plasma supply has now been sold for commercial gain.
NHS Blood and Transplant has continued to collect plasma for profit-free treatment via blood components. Since 2021, NHSBT has also restarted collecting plasma for profit-free treatment via immunoglobulin, a medicine made from plasma.
Does anyone sell plasma?
In some other countries, plasma derived medicinal products are made from plasma donated by donors who are paid. These medicines can be imported to the UK.
It’s illegal to pay blood and plasma donors in the UK.
Does NHS Blood and Transplant sell plasma for profit?
No, NHS Blood and Transplant does not sell plasma for profit.
NHS organisations charge each other for the cost of services, on a cost recovery basis. For example, an NHS commissioning group might give an NHS hospital a fixed sum of money for a hip operation.
In the same way, NHS Blood and Transplant receives money for each unit of red cells, platelets and plasma that it supplies to hospitals. This money covers NHS Blood and Transplant’s costs.
Is NHS plasma donation privatised?
NHS plasma donation is not privatised. NHS Blood and Transplant is an NHS organisation. It is a Special Health Authority, reporting into the Department of Health and Social Care.
How can I help?
If you see people suggesting that ‘NHS blood donation has been privatised’ or similar claims please direct them to this page.
The confusion could put people off donating and we need people to keep donating and saving lives.