The NHS is partnering with Facebook to enlist new blood donors in England, Wales and Northern Ireland ahead of a potential second wave of COVID-19.
The feature on Facebook will allow users to sign up to receive notifications to donate at local centres, as well as encourage their friends to donate too.
More than 5,000 blood donations are needed by the NHS in England, Wales and Northern Ireland every day to meet demand.
Each donation can save up to three lives – but there isn’t a good representation across all sections of British society in who is donating, with the majority of donors aged over 45
Black people and men are particularly underrepresented, with rare subtypes, such as RO, far more common in people of black heritage – but currently only 1.5% of blood donors in England are black, compared to 3.5% of the population.
Men in general are particularly being encouraged to donate blood as well as plasma because their blood generally contains fewer antibodies, making it easier to match patients and use their donations 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 needs people who’ve had coronavirus to donate convalescent plasma,” Facebook said in a statement.
This is antibody-rich plasma which can be transfused into people whose immune systems are struggling to respond to the infection.
“Men are especially needed because they are roughly 50% more likely to have high enough antibody levels for the trials,” the company added.
The Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock welcomed the announcement.
He 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.”