Facebook has rolled out its blood donation feature to parts of the UK in a bid to encourage Brits to give blood.
The dedicated webpage lets Facebook users sign up to become a blood donor at a nearby NHS centre, set reminders to give blood and invite friends to donate too.
It also signs users up for alerts from local donation centres, letting them know that blood supplies are in short supply and asking for a donation.
Facebook has partnered with NHS blood service providers across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, allowing users aged between 18 and 65 to use the feature.
It will be promoted on people’s newsfeeds or can be found by searching ‘blood donations’ on Facebook.
The feature has already been live in the US for more than a year and will also launch in Scotland at a later date
Facebook is promoting the feature by notifying people in their newsfeeds, or people can simply find it by searching ‘blood donations’
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, with every donation saving up to three lives.
However, most donors are aged over 45, which is why the NHS is particularly keen on the new feature reaching Facebook’s younger demographic and securing the next generation of long-term donors.
Facebook and the NHS are hoping to make the donation process straightforward for young British Facebook users with an accessible interface that easily links to local centres.
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘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.’
Facebook said the feature is making it ‘easier than ever’ to donate and make a difference.
‘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,’ said Steve Hatch, Facebook vice president for Northern Europe.
‘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.’
At the top of the blood donation page, users can click ‘Sign up’ to become a donor before being automatically given information on their nearest NHS donor centre.
They’re also given a list of alternative locations, all ranked by distance based on their current location.
They can then go to their preferred donor centre in person to complete a donor questionnaire and set an appointment.
Just a couple of clicks lets Facebook users sign up to receive updates from local donor centres
NHS NEEDS CONVALESCENT PLASMA
Blood plasma is a yellowish liquid that makes up about half your blood volume.
After a virus, plasma contains antibodies that are used to help fight infection.
Convalescent plasma is plasma from people who’ve had coronavirus, or any other virus types.
The NHS is asking for blood plasma from people who’ve recovered from Covid-19.
It’s working on a clinical trial to help with the national effort against the virus.
The trial will reveal how effective convalescent plasma is for treating coronavirus patients.
More info: nhs.uk
Users can also set a personal reminder on Facebook of when their appointment is and sign up for alerts.
The centres also send out notifications to people in their local area who have registered through Facebook.
These notifications can be customised – for example, calling for convalescent plasma donors to help fight Covid-19 or to say their stocks are low.
Antibody-rich convalescent plasma, found in the blood of someone who has recovered from a virus, and can help prevent a future infection.
The page, which is available at facebook.com/donateblood, also has a set of frequently asked questions, including how Covid-19 is affecting blood donation.
Most blood banks are remaining open during the pandemic because they’re providing an essential service.
Donor centres in England and Northern Ireland will also make Facebook posts calling for convalescent plasma donations, which are urgently needed from people who have recovered from coronavirus.
The antibody-rich plasma can be transfused into those who are struggling to develop their own immune response.
‘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,’ said Zeeshan Asghar, national partnerships manager for NHS Blood and Transplant.
The feature lists nearest NHS blood donation centres based on the user’s current location
‘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.’
NHS blood service providers are also calling on black people and men generally to sign up as blood donors to help the NHS collect the right mix of blood types.
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 and last year, 59 per cent of new donors were women.
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
Men’s blood generally contains fewer antibodies, which makes it easier to match to patients and easier to use in blood products such as plasma and platelets.
‘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,’ said Asghar.
The feature first launched in other parts of the world in 2017, which Facebook says has helped to recruit more than 70 million blood donors globally.
The feature is already live in the US, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Brazil, South Africa, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Egypt, Côte d’Ivoire, Mexico, Taiwan, Niger and Kenya.
It’s also launched in Zimbabwe today and is expected to roll out to Scotland ‘soon’, the social network said.
BLOOD DONOR MYTH BUSTERS
Tattoos & piercings
A lot of people think they can’t donate if they have tattoos or body piercings.
This isn’t true – donors just have to wait four months from the date they got the tattoo or piercing.
Those who have been abroad will be able to donate, but may just have to wait a few weeks or months depending on the location.
Potential donors can learn more on the Give Blood website and find out how long they may have to wait and the reasons why.
Donating blood will not affect one’s ability to play sports or go to the gym.
The NHS advises against working out for 24 hours before or after donating to make sure donors are hydrated and blood cells have replaced themselves.
Giving blood during the Covid-19 pandemic
– People who are fit and healthy can donate blood.
– Extra safety measures have been introduced at blood donation centres including social distancing and extra cleaning.
– Donors are being asked to follow the latest advice available from their local blood service provider and advice from the government.
The NHS cannot stockpile blood, which can only be stored for 35 days, meaning it needs regular donations through the year.