Frequently Asked Questions

What is the coronavirus advice for platelet donors?
Donors are needed more than ever so please keep your appointment if you can. Our centres are open and our staff are taking extra measures to ensure the safety of your visit. Donating is considered essential travel. Our teams are trained in thorough universal hygiene precautions to prevent the spread of all infections. Safety is our number one priority. For more information about donation with regard to the coronavirus, please read our advice for donors.
How long does a platelet donation take?
A platelet donation takes up to 90 minutes. You will be asked to undergo a Donor Health Check (as with blood donation) first and encouraged to have a short rest and drink afterwards. You can expect to the whole process to take up to 2 hours.
Are the donor eligibility criteria the same for platelet and blood donors?
Eligibility criteria in terms of age and health are the same for blood and platelet donors, but for platelet donation we need to assess your height and weight ratio to check your blood volume - for more information click here to see the matrix. There is one additional medication rule: you cannot donate platelets if you have taken aspirin, aspirin-containing medications, piroxicam or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as Ibuprofen in the last 48 hours. This is because these drugs affect the potency and performance of your platelets. Please avoid fatty foods for 48 hours before donating as this can affect the quality of the donation.
Once I start donating platelets, can I still donate blood?
Once you join the platelet panel, we ask you to give platelets only. This helps us maintain our supply of platelets to patients by having a panel of committed donors on whom we can call. If you wish to return to donating blood after donating platelets, then you will need to wait 4 weeks before donating blood.
Is platelet donation safe?
Yes. Platelet donations are performed in a highly-controlled, sterile environment by professionally trained staff. All platelet collection equipment is sterilized and equipment that is in contact with the donor's blood is used only once, eliminating the possibility of transmitting any viral infection.
How often can I donate platelets?
Platelet donors may donate up to 24 times a year with a minimum interval between donations of 14 days.
What if I change my mind about donating platelets?
You can change your mind at any time. If you do decide that platelet donation is not for you, we hope that you will continue to give blood donations.
Selected platelet donations - why are you special?

1. What are selected platelet donations - why are you special?
Some donors have a feature of their donation which is rare and difficult to find in the population of eligible donors. In the case of certain donors they have a special tissue type which is often used to select ('match') platelets for transfusion in patients where regular platelet transfusions haven't worked. Some parts of your tissue type is identical so less variable, meaning your donation can be used to match against more patients, we call this homozygous. We refer to these donors as 'high-value' and you may have received a letter about this or hear this phrase used when you donate.

2. What is a tissue type?
Your 'tissue type' is also known as your HLA type. It is one of the ways that your body's defence system identifies the differences between your own cells and foreign cells.

3. What is HLA (Human Leucocyte Antigen)
Antigens are proteins, often found on the surface of cells. Antibodies are formed by the body when it recognises a 'foreign' antigen. This is part of the body’s defence mechanism against 'foreign invaders'. These antibodies will destroy 'foreign' antigens and the cells they are on. The surface of almost all cells including white blood cells and platelets (but not red cells) carry a set of antigens called Human Leucocyte Antigens (HLA).

Your HLA antigens are determined by the HLA genes you inherit from your parents. There are a number of these HLA genes in various combinations that make up your HLA type, consequently there are thousands of different HLA types in the population. Some HLA types are found in populations throughout the world whilst others are found more commonly in particular ethnic groups.

The majority of people have 4 different HLA antigens which make up the tissue type on their platelet but some people have only 2 or 3 antigens. Platelets from donors with 2 or 3 antigens will match many more patients than those with 4 antigens and for some patients only platelets with 2 antigens are suitable.

4. Who needs selected (HLA matched) platelet donations?
Patients who require multiple platelet transfusions, such as people with leukaemia, those on long term chemotherapy or with platelet disorders, may develop antibodies to platelets that have different tissue types (HLA) to their own. This means that the patient’s antibodies will destroy any platelets that are different from their own, as a consequence the platelet transfusion is 'rejected' and the transfused platelets are destroyed.

When a patient has developed HLA antibodies, we have to select donors who have an HLA type that matches the patient's own HLA type and that is not seen as ‘foreign’ to the patients immune system.

Not everybody develops antibodies and the reasons why this happens are not always understood but patients who receive more platelet transfusions are more likely to develop antibodies. The majority of patients don’t have antibodies that destroy platelets and so don't need to be matched.

Patients often need platelets unexpectedly and at short notice. The life of a platelet is very short and some patients often need platelets every day or every other day in order to prevent serious bleeding. We must maintain a stock of platelets with a variety of HLA types at all times to ensure we can provide them for patients whenever they are needed.

5. Why is HLA type important?
When a patient has a platelet transfusion the transfused cells may be seen as foreign and produce antibodies against the HLA type. In patients that have repeated transfusions the likelihood of producing antibodies increases.

If a patient makes antibodies to an HLA type then platelets have to be selected (or matched) so they are similar to the patients HLA so the antibodies will not recognise them as foreign. If the transfusion isn't matched then the platelets will be destroyed by the patient’s antibodies before they have a chance to work by stopping or preventing bleeding.

Finding a perfect HLA match is not always possible for some patients for a number of reasons. In these cases we select the best match we have. Donors who have an HLA type that is homozygous will match more people and therefore their platelets are more likely to be selected for these patients.

6. What does homozygous mean?
You may hear the term homozygous used in relation to special donors, this refers to people who have inherited the same HLA antigens from both parents and so they have a double dose of that anitgen instead of 2 different antigens, as a result your HLA type is less variable. HLA selected platelets from homozygous donors are less likely to trigger antibody production after transfusion, or be attacked by antibodies that already exist in the patient.

7. Why is homozygous "high value"
Homozygous donors are rare and although different homozygote tissue types will occur at different frequencies on average only 1 in 200 donors are homozygous.

8. What does this mean for me?
If you are found to be either homozygous or half-homozygous then your donations are extremely useful for certain patients. It has no implication to you directly as everybody has an HLA type. We just wanted you to know how your donations are especially needed. We hope you are able to continue donating as an apheresis platelet donor as often as you are able. Thank you for your continuing support in helping us supply your life-saving platelets to hospitals.

Any questions?
Please ask a nurse when you next donate.
When can I expect my sample assessment results?
If you have recently taken part in a sample assessment to see if you are suitable to give platelets and are awaiting results, there may be a delay of several weeks in your results being returned. This is due to our response to Covid-19.
We aim to update you as soon as possible by letter on the outcome of your sample assessment.
If you can, in the meantime, please continue to donate blood.
I am suitable to give platelets. How do I make my first appointment?
At the moment, there are limited appointments at our donor centres for new platelet donors; this is to allow for donors to give Plasma to help patients with Covid-19.
Our team will be in contact, either from a 01923 telephone number or from your local donor centre in the coming weeks to offer an appointment to give platelets.
In the meantime, if you can, please do book your next blood donation appointment.