COVID-19 convalescent plasma recipient opens donor centre at Westfield Stratford City

The first person in UK to receive COVID-19 convalescent plasma has ‘cut the ribbon’ on a brand-new plasma donor centre at Westfield Stratford City shopping centre.

NHS Blood and Transplant has opened three new ‘pop-up’ COVID-19 convalescent plasma donor centres in London in recent weeks, as it massively expands collection.

Located at one of the largest urban shopping centres in Europe, the new site will enable NHSBT to collect an extra 500 plasma donations over the next two weeks as donors will have access to onsite parking and strong public transport links. The donation centre will be open for appointments only for those that have recovered from COVID-19.

The Stratford donor centre adds to two new venues opened last month which included Harlequin’s Rugby ground, Twickenham Stoop, and also The Danson Centre in Bexleyheath.

The sites have been created in addition to the existing, permanent donor centres in Tooting, Edgware, and the West End, bringing the total number of donation centres in London to six.

Ann Kitchen, 63, from Lambeth had the honour of cutting the ribbon on the day. Ann was admitted to St Thomas’ Hospital at the end of April with coronavirus symptoms, and following a test was diagnosed with COVID-19.

Despite the best efforts of clinical teams Ann’s condition deteriorated significantly so she had to be admitted to the Intensive Care Unit. While receiving care in the unit, Ann was approached to participate in the convalescent plasma trial.

“Within a couple of days of having that plasma, I started to feel a lot better,” she says.

“I just felt it was the right thing. Someone has to start doing it. And if it’s going to help other people. I just felt it was right.”

“I’m just pleased that there are people out there who are willing to give people a chance.”

Ann was the first patient to take part, but since then about 350 more have agreed to join the trials. Around half have received the plasma.

Alyson Hodkinson, General Manager of Westfield Stratford City commented: “We are very pleased to host a plasma donation centre here at Westfield Stratford City. Supporting our local community through COVID-19 has been a top priority and we are pleased to now be welcoming back visitors through our doors safely. The donation centre is a new, unique feature to our East London destination.”

NHSBT is urgently trying to collect plasma and is creating additional temporary donor centres around the country. However, London’s large population and high number of early infections and recovered patients have made it the number one priority area for donations.

Convalescent plasma is the antibody-rich plasma of people who have recovered from COVID-19, which can be transfused into people who are struggling to develop their own immune response.

The antibodies can attach themselves to the virus and stop it invading cells.

NHSBT is asking people from London who live near a donor and who have recovered from COVID-19 to get in touch on 0300 123 23 23 or at www.nhsbt.nhs.uk as they may be able to donate too.

Prof David Roberts, NHS Blood and Transplant’s Associate Medical Director for Blood Donation, said: “Thank you to everyone in London who has donated convalescent plasma to help patients with COVID and to try to save lives.

“We know many people who can donate will have been through a difficult experience and we are very grateful for their help.

“Convalescent plasma donation is safe and easy. If you get the call, please donate. Help your NHS fight COVID-19.”

The plasma with the most antibodies tends to come from people who were more ill. For this reason, there is a particular need for recovered donors who are male, or who are aged over 35, or who were hospitalised. Their plasma is most likely to be able to save lives.

The number of plasma donation appointments in London will increase further as the national plasma programme expands.

If you live near a donor centre and have recovered from COVID-19, you can offer to donate by calling 0300 123 23 23 or visiting www.nhsbt.nhs.uk

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