Facebook is introducing its blood donation feature to parts of the UK in a bid to help the NHS top up the pipeline with much-needed “new blood”.
The tech giant has partnered with NHS blood service providers across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, allowing users aged between 18 and 65 to sign up to receive updates.
Social media could be key to finding the next generation of blood donors, given that most are currently aged over 45.
In England alone, almost 5,000 blood donations are required to meet the needs of patients.
The opt-in feature on Facebook will notify users about opportunities to donate at a local blood donation centre and invite friends to donate.
It will be promoted on people’s newsfeeds or can be found by searching “blood donations” on Facebook.
Donor centres in England and Northern Ireland will also be able to make 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.
“It’s a priority for us to make it easy for people to know when and where their nearest blood donor sessions are, so we’re really pleased that the new feature enables users to do this,” said Zeeshan Asghar, national partnerships manager for NHS Blood and Transplant.
“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.”
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.
It is expected to roll out to the rest of the UK “soon”, the social network said.
Alan Prosser, director at the Welsh Blood Service, said: “With the Covid-19 pandemic presenting us with new challenges, we’re eager to see the difference this collaboration will make for the next generation of blood donors in Wales.”
Karin Jackson, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service, said: “Due to Covid-19, we are currently running with reduced capacity so it is essential that we fill all of our donation appointment slots to ensure we meet hospital demand.”
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.”