NHS Blood and Transplant is urgently appealing for people who have had COVID-19 to donate plasma at its new Duke’s Court centre in Woking.

It will be used in clinical trials to determine whether the antibody-rich plasma found in those who have had coronavirus – known as convalescent plasma – could be an effective treatment for COVID-19.

It is then transfused into patients who are struggling to develop their own immune response. The antibodies could slow or stop the virus spreading, which may save lives.

Francisco San Diego, Woking’s donor centre manager, said: “Already the response in just our first week has been amazing.

“People have such a passion to help out, to be at the forefront of anything which helps defeat the virus.

“Even so, we would love to see more people in and around Woking offering to donate so we can book them into donation appointments now.

“Donation is safe and easy, and you could save lives. Your body quickly replaces the antibodies afterwards.”

About 80 people are already booked in to donate at the centre, which is the sixth in the South East after Arundel, Ashford, Oxford, Reading and Southampton.

Some 850 patients have already received transfusions at hospitals in the region as part of the trials.

“The whole process takes not much more than 45 minutes,” Francisco added. “It’s just an hour out of your life, that’s all.

“At the moment we have between two and three donor chairs in use, but as we ramp up we can expand to six chairs, which we call beds.

“We discuss our progress regularly and monitor how many beds we will need.”

Donation is through a specialist plasmapheresis machine, which separates the plasma from the blood’s other components and then returns them to the donor’s body.

The NHS asks particularly for donors who are males; over 35; were ill enough with COVID-19 to be treated in hospital; and are from Asian communities. Anyone over 17 can volunteer. More BAME donors overall are also being sought.

* TO volunteer to donate, visit  www.nhsbt.nhs.uk, or search online for “donate plasma”.

For more on this story, see the 14 January edition of the Woking News & Mail